Police found the body of Sgt. Elder Fernandes near a railroad

By Harriet Sokmensuer
August 26, 2020 04:53 PM
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Sgt. Elder Fernandez
Sgt. Elder Fernandes
| Credit: Fort Hood

The missing Fort Hood soldier who allegedly reported sexual abuse before his disappearance has believed to have been found dead.

On Tuesday evening, Temple police received a call requesting medical help for a man found on the side of a railroad, according to a news release. Upon arrival, authorities determined the man had been dead for some time.

Temple police said the individual is believed to be missing Fort Hood soldier 23-year-old Sgt. Elder Fernandes.

Natalie Khawam, a spokesperson for Fernandes' family, said the Army informed the family of the police's discovery Tuesday night. His body was found hanging in a tree, she said, CBS News reports.

Police recovered Fernandes' backpack and identified him using his driver's license, Khawam said. Temple police have requested an autopsy and now await forensic identification.

No foul play is suspected at this time, according to police. The investigation remains ongoing.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fernandes family during this challenging time," Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds said in a statement.

Fernandes, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist at Fort Hood, was last seen on Aug. 17.  His family reported him missing two days later when they were unable to get in contact with him.

In a statement to CNN, Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam, a 1st Cavalry Division public affairs officer, said that there is an "open investigation of abusive sexual contact" involving Fernandes, who was classified as a victim in the inquest.

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His death is the latest in several disappearances and deaths tied to the installation this year.

Earlier this month, Brandon Michael Olivares, 28, was accused of killing 27-year-old Pfc. Brandon Scott Rosecrans, a Fort Hood soldier found fatally shot on a secluded roadside May 18. Police said Olivares and Rosecrans, a National Defense Service Medal recipient, were traveling together in Rosecrans’ Jeep Renegade before he was shot.

The victim's body was discovered at 10:16 a.m., and his Jeep was found 11 minutes later about four miles away, engulfed in flames.

Olivares is being held on a $1 million bond.

According to a criminal affidavit, Olivares allegedly shot Rosencrans over a disputed gun sale, reports the Austin American-Statesman.

Olivares' girlfriend, Estrellita “Star” Falcon, 37, was arrested on charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle and hindering apprehension and prosecution in connection with the shooting. She was jailed with a $100,000 bond. (Attorneys for the two were not identified in public records and it could not be determined if they’d entered pleas to the charges against them.)

In late June, the partial remains of missing 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier Pfc. Vanessa Guillen were discovered in a shallow grave near the Leon River in rural Bell County. Guillen’s suspected killer, Spc. Aaron David Robinson, 20, died by suicide as police closed in on him.

Robinson's girlfriend, Cecily Anne Aguilar, 22, is accused of helping Robinson dismember Guillen and dispose of her remains. Aguilar is charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and two substantive counts of tampering with evidence and has pleaded not guilty to all charges, KDHN reports.

Earlier in June, the remains of Pvt. 2nd Class Gregory Wedel-Morales, who had been missing for 10 months, were discovered in a field in Killeen. Police suspect foul play, KTRK reports.