Military officials say that foul play is not suspected in the disappearance of a Fort Hood soldier who hasn’t been heard from in over a week.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Texas authorities are asking for the public to keep an eye out for Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23. He was last seen on August 17, reportedly by his staff sergeant at Fort Hood, according to family and friends.
Fernandes’ aunt, Isabel Fernandes, said that the soldier’s car, keys, and belongings were left on base, ABC 13 reports.
“This is very, very unusual. He has been in touch with us since last week. I personally spoke to him Friday morning. He spoke with his mom this past Sunday and he promised he would call on Monday,” Isabel said earlier this month.
“Monday came and went and he didn’t call, and he didn’t answer calls from anyone else. Tuesday, no calls and my sister ended up flying down there yesterday, and still we haven’t heard from him.”
Fort Hood officials are now saying the soldier left voluntarily. According to a Fort Hood press statement, “fellow Soldiers indicate Sgt. Fernandes left on his own accord.”
Officials added that they do not suspect Elder’s case is connected to other ongoing Fort Hood cases. Fernandes is among 11 Fort Hood soldiers who have disappeared this year alone. At least five of the missing soldiers have been found dead.
“There is no connection between the disappearance of Sgt. Fernandes and any other ongoing cases at Fort Hood. Sgt. Fernandes’ Leadership initiated a dialogue with his family before his current absence and will remain in contact with them in our efforts to find him.”
Fernandes is a Hispanic male who stands 5-feet-4-inches tall and weighs around 133 pounds, according to the Killeen Police Department. He was last seen wearing black army shorts, a t-shirt, and red shoes.
“We are here all worried. He has a big family and we need to find him and we need to find him alive,” Isabel Fernandes said.
Texas EquuSearch has been assisting officials with locating Fernandes. They were told the soldier may have been dropped off at Cody Poe Road in Killeen on August 17. EquuSearch volunteers spent time searching the area over the weekend.
Search Coordinator Mark Rodgers indicated Fernandes was dropped off in the area after a hospital visit, ABC 8 reports.
“I don’t know what state he was in when he was brought back from the hospital, I don’t know who was bringing him back we don’t even have confirmation on exactly where he was dropped off.”
A staff sergeant told officials that he dropped Fernandes off at his former residence after the soldier was discharged from the hospital, but Fernandes’s roommate reportedly said he never saw him.
Sexual Abuse Investigation
Meanwhile, the family retained lawyer Natalie Kwaham for assistance. According to Kwaham, Fernandes was sexually assaulted at the base in April inside a supply room. Kwaham said that superior “grabbed Fernandes’s buttocks,” the Boston Globe reports.
“They are not there to be bullied or hazed, they are there to serve our country,” Kwaham said.
Anyone with information should contact the Fort Hood Military Police at (254) 288-1170, U.S. Army CID at (254) 287-2722, or the Killeen Police Department at (254) 200-7905.
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[Feature Photo: Sgt. Elder Fernandes/Fort Hood]