Body believed to be missing Fort Hood soldier Elder Fernandes found in Texas, family lawyer says
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fernandes family during this challenging time," Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds said.
The body of Sgt. Elder Fernandes, the 23-year-old soldier who went missing from Fort Hood last week, has reportedly been found by authorities.
Natalie Khawam told the Austin American-Statesman and Washington Post that Army officials informed the family that Fernandes had been found on Tuesday night some 25 miles from the base.
Army officials reportedly identified the missing soldier by using a driver's license and military ID card in a backpack that was with him.
“This is another example and another reason why our country needs to protect our soldiers,” Khawam said, per the Statesman. “Shame on them for not protecting this young man who just reenlisted in January to continue to serve our country.”
Official confirmation that the body is in fact Fernandes is still pending, according to a Temple Police Department press release.
Per the release, police officers were notified on Tuesday evening that “a male was observed near the railroad tracks.” When officers arrived on the scene, they found that “the subject had been deceased for some period of time.”
The ID cards at the scene indicated the victim was Fernandes, the release says, but “no forensic confirmation has been made at this time.”
Fort Hood said over the weekend that foul play was not suspected in Fernandes' disappearance, and information from other soldiers indicated he'd left “on his own accord.”
Khawam told Task & Purpose on Tuesday that Fernandes was “bullied” and “hazed” after reporting that he was sexually assaulted.
According to Khawam, Fernandes was groped by another male soldier in a supply room in April.
“He was very upset, he was embarrassed, he was hurt, he was really angry,” she said. “He reported it.”
A spokesman for the 1st Cavalry Division, Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam, told Task & Purpose they are “not aware of any reports of bullying or hazing.”
Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds said in the release on Tuesday that their “thoughts and prayers are with the Fernandes family during this challenging time.”