KEY POINTS

  • Body was found near Lake Polk in the city of Temple in Texas
  • He was reported missing Aug.18
  • Was allegedly sexually assaulted by his sergeant

The body of Fort Hood soldier Elder Fernandes, who went missing more than a week ago, was found Tuesday night.

The 23-year-old's body was found hanging in a tree near Lake Polk in the city of Temple in Texas. Fernandes was reported missing Aug. 18 by the Killeen police department and the United States Army police.

Officers from the Temple Police Department responded to a medical call Tuesday evening after the caller reported seeing a man near the railroad tracks about 28 miles from the Fort Hood base.

The responding officers "determined that the subject had been deceased for some period of time," the department said in its statement.

During the initial investigation, officers found a backpack that contained a driver’s license that indicated the deceased victim was Fernandes. Army police notified Fernandes' family, and their attorney, Natalie Khawam, later confirmed the death on Twitter.

"Our worst nightmare has happened," Khawam said in the statement. "One of our own, Sergeant Elder Fernandes has been found dead today. We are sickened by this tragedy that has happened one too many times. We are heartbroken for Elder Fernandes’s family."

No foul play is suspected at the moment, police said.

However, Khawam said Fernandes was sexually assaulted by his sergeant and was "bullied and hazed for reporting it."

Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam said in a statement there is an "open investigation of abusive sexual contact" involving Fernandes. He added Fernandes had previously transferred units after reporting sexual abuse.

"The unit is cooperating with local authorities from the cities of Killeen and Temple as this incident remains under investigation," the release from the department stated.

Fernandes of Brockton, Massachusetts, joined the army in September 2016 as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist. He was last seen Aug 17. Soldiers from his unit initiated a thorough search after he was reported absent the next day.

The unit distributed his photograph, visited local hotels and hospitals throughout central Texas trying to locate him. His family flew from Massachusetts to Texas to look for him.

Fernandes' vehicle was located in the unit's parking lot at the base and information gathered from other soldiers suggested he had left on his own will. However, his family publicly disputed the claim, KCEN-TV reported.

"We are heartbroken for Elder Fernandes' family and sickened by this tragedy that has happened too many times at Fort Hood," Khawam said.

Another Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Vanessa Guillen, went missing in April and her remains were identified in July. Guillen’s family alleged she was a victim of sexual harassment.

Aaron David Robinson, who was a suspect in the case and also a soldier at Fort Hood, killed himself the next day after Guillen’s remains were found. Another suspect, Cecily Aguilar was arrested and charged for tampering evidence.

Fernandes is the thirteenth Fort Hood soldier reported to have "vanished or been killed" this year, Khawam said.

Fort Hood
The main gate at the U.S. Army post at Fort Hood, Texas, is pictured in this undated photograph, obtained on Nov. 5, 2009. REUTERS/III Corps Public Affairs/U.S. Army/Handout
MEET IBT NEWS FROM BELOW CHANNELS

© Copyright IBTimes 2022. All rights reserved.