- Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, was reported missing after he didn’t show up to work at the Fort Hood Army base on August 18; he was last seen the previous day when his staff sergeant dropped him off at his home in Killeen, Texas.
- He had recently been discharged from the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Centre, according to KWKT-TV, though it remains unclear why he was hospitalized.
- Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam, a 1st Cavalry Division spokesman, told NBC News that Fernandes had recently transferred units after reporting sexual abuse.
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A Fort Hood soldier who has been missing for a week told the US Army days before his disappearance that he had been sexually abused.
Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, was last seen August 17 when his staff sergeant dropped him off at his home in Killeen, Texas, after he had been discharged from the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Centre, according to KWKT-TV.
It’s unclear why Fernandes had been at the hospital, though his mother, Ailiana Fernandes, told NBC News he was held at the facility for four or five days.
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam, a 1st Cavalry Division spokesman, told NBC News there was an open investigation into “abusive sexual contact involving Sgt. Fernandes” at the Texas Army base.
“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,” he said.
In a press release about Fernandes’ disappearance, Fort Hood said the soldier was reported missing when he did not report to work on August 18. His car was found in his unit’s parking lot on the Texas Army base.
Fernandes, a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist in the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade, recently transferred units because of the abuse allegations, NBC News reported, citing Army officials.
Fort Hood released a statement Saturday in which officials said they believed that Fernandes left on his own accord and that his disappearance wasn’t connected to the sexual-abuse investigation.
“Our priority remains getting Sgt. Fernandes back with the people that care about him,” said Justin Redfern, commander of the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. “We are concerned for his well-being and want him to continue the care he was receiving before he went missing. Our unit and the Army have the resources to help him.”
Fort Hood made headlines earlier this year when a 20-year-old soldier, Vanessa Guillen, went missing from the base in April. Her remains were found in July, 20 miles east of Fort Hood, and Guillen’s family had said she was sexually harassed by the soldier suspected of killing her.
Federal and state authorities said at the time that a fellow soldier, Aaron Robinson, had killed and dismembered Guillen. He died by suicide after her remains were found.
A civilian, Cecily Aguilar of Killeen, was charged in the case. Prosecutors say she helped Robinson dispense of Guillen’s body, but Aguilar pleaded not guilty.
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