7 soldiers have died in the Fort Hood area this year

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An Army private was found dead last week at a lake near Fort Hood, according to a Tuesday press release, marking the seventh non-combat related death of a soldier on or around the Texas Army base in the past year.

Pvt. Mejhor Mortar, 26, of Pensacola, Florida, was "found unresponsive" in the vicinity of Stillhouse Lake on July 17, according to the release. The incident is currently under investigation by Bell County Sheriff's Department.

A Sheriff's Department spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Morta joined the Army in Sept. 2019 as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

“The Black Knight family is truly heartbroken by the tragic loss of Private Mejhor Morta. I would like to send my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones,” Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, 1-5 commander, said in the release.

“My thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time. Private Morta was a great Trooper and this loss is felt by every member within our formation.”

fort hood deaths 2020

Morta's death comes amid intense scrutiny of Fort Hood in recent weeks. More than 90 lawmakers earlier this month called for an independent review of how the Army handled the disappearance of Spc. Vanessa Guillén from the base. Meanwhile, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has ordered an "independent and comprehensive" review of the Fort Hood command climate.

Two soldiers stationed at Fort Hood have died on overseas deployments this year: Spc. Juan Mendez Covarrubias was killed by enemy indirect fire at Camp Taji, Iraq on March 11 and Sgt. 1st Class John Hilty, 44, died March 30 in Erbil, Iraq in a "non-combat related incident."

Meanwhile, six other Fort Hood soldiers have died stateside, either on or near the base, in addition to Pvt. Morta. 

They are:

  1. Spc. Shelby Jones, 20: Shot and killed at a strip club near Fort Hood on March 1.
  2. Spc. Christopher Sawyer, 29: Found unresponsive in his on-post residence on March 9. 
  3. Spc. Freddy Delacruz Jr., 23: Was among three victims found dead of gunshot wounds at an off-base apartment complex on March 14.
  4. Spc. Vanessa Guillén, 20. Killed in her unit's arms room on April 22. Her remains were positively identified on July 6. 
  5. Pfc. Brandon Rosecrans, 27. Found dead from a gunshot wound near his burning Jeep on May 18.
  6. Pvt. Gregory Morales*, 24. Foul play suspected after skeletal remains found off base on June 19.

*It's not yet clear when Morales died. He was last heard from on Aug. 20, 2019 just days before he was to be discharged from the Army. His remains were found and positively identified in June 2020.