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Fort Hood confirms ‘abuse sexual contact’ investigation involving missing soldier

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 6:18 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 21, 2020 at 5:43 PM CDT
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FORT HOOD, Texas (KWTX) – Fort Hood late Friday afternoon confirmed an open investigation of “abuse sexual contact” involving a missing soldier who’s the focus of a growing search.

Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, hasn’t been heard from since Monday, August 17th.

“We can confirm there is an open investigation of abuse sexual contact involving Sgt. Fernandes,” Fort Hood public affairs officer Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam said in a statement.

“The unit sexual assault response coordinator has been working closely with Sgt. Fernandes, ensuring he was aware of all his reporting, care, and victim advocacy options. The unit also facilitated his transfer from a unit who has recently deployed to a different unit within the brigade to ensure he received the proper care and ensure there were no opportunities for reprisals,” he said.

Volunteers from Texas Equusearch, which helped in the effort that led to the discovery of the remains of slain Fort Hood Spc. Vanessa Guillen, joined the search for the missing soldier Friday.

And attorney Natalie Khawam, who represents Guillen’s family, has agreed to represent the soldier’s family.

Fort Hood Friday appealed to the public for help in the search for Fernandes.

“Information gathered from fellow Soldiers so far indicate Fernandes may have left Fort Hood on his own accord,” the post said in a press release.

Family members said Fernandes’ staff sergeant dropped him off Monday afternoon at his home in the 2700 block of Woodlands Drive in Killeen, police said.

Fernandes is 5-foot-4, weighs about 135 pounds and was last seen wearing black Army PT shorts and T-shirt and red athletic shoes.

Investigators are asking anyone with information to call the Killeen Police Department at (254) 200-7905.

Fernandes is assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade.

“Our primary concern is for his health and well-being,” the post said in a statement Thursday evening.

“We have completed a search of the entire division area, to include motor pools, parking lots, and headquarters buildings and the unit is in contact with the soldier’s family, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and civilian law enforcement agencies to help find him as we continue our search. Finding him and ensuring his safety is a top priority for the division.”

Officials are asking anyone with information to call the Fort Hood CID Office at (254) 287-2722, the Fort Hood MP desk at (254) 287-4001 or police.

Information may also be submitted anonymously online.

The disappearance is another of a string dating back to last year.

Pvt. 2nd Class Gregory Wedel-Morales disappeared on Aug. 19, 2019.

His skeletal remains were discovered on June 19 in a field in Killeen.

On June 30, contractors working on a fence along the Leon River discovered what appeared to be human remains that were later identified as those of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, 20, who was last seen sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on April 22 in the parking lot of her 3rd Cavalry Regiment Engineer Squadron Headquarters.

She was murdered by another soldier, court documents show.

Fort Hood Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, of Pensacola, Fla., was discovered missing on July 16.

He was found dead the next day in the area of Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

A preliminary autopsy report indicated his death was consistent with drowning.

MISSING: Sgt. Elder Fernandes - Killeen, TX (8/17/20) 23-year-old Sgt. Elder Fernades was last seen in Killeen, Texas...

Posted by Texas EquuSearch on Thursday, 20 August 2020

(Eric Franklin and Rosemond Crown contributed to this story)

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