'Missing Fort Hood soldier who reported sexual abuse found hanged' – becoming 12th death this year

A MISSING Fort Hood soldier who reported sexual abuse was found hanged, cops said – becoming the twelfth death this year.

On Tuesday, cops said the body believed to be that of missing Sgt Elder Fernandes was found in Temple, about 30 miles from Fort Hood, the Texas Army base.

Local police determined that it was the missing soldier based on the backpack he had with him, which had his drivers license inside but forensic confirmation is pending.

Fernandes, 23, is the twelfth Fort Hood soldier to die this year and his family's attorney Natalie Khawam said he was found hanging in a tree.

Fernandes was reported missing by US Army police on August 19.

Officials said he was last seen two days before when a superior had dropped him off at his house.

Fernandes transferred units after reporting sexual abuse, an Army official said in a statement.

Temple police got a call at 5:36 pm saying a man was seen near the railroad tracks but when cops arrived, they determined he was dead.

Law enforcement don't suspect foul play but they're investigating Fernandes' death.

The probe is ongoing and an autopsy is pending.

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

Khawam said the family were told late on Tuesday night. 

The Army and the Fernandes family, from Brockton, Massachusetts, appealed for help to find the 23-year-old.

Fernandes had not been in touch with his mother Ailina Fernandes for over a week.

"His phone is completely off," Ailina told FOX 26. "I don't have any contact with him."

Ailina said that her son had been in Texas for about seven months and "was just having some issue lately inside his unit."

Fernandes was last seen by members of his unit at a house in Killeen, Texas, last Monday.

His vehicle remained at the unit's parking lot in its spot. 

He was discharged from hospital on Monday and was supposed to call his mother but she said he did not.

In a statement, Fort Hood confirmed it had opened an investigation into sexual abuse contact involving Fernandes. 

"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 statement reads.

"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."

Khawam confirmed remains had been found this week.

"Our worst nightmare has happened," Khawam told The Boston Globe. "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.

"We will not stop until we find out what happened to Elder.

"We must demand a Congressional Investigation of Ft. Hood. We must protect our soldiers!"

Khawam also represents the family of murdered Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen, 20, whose mutilated remains were found in July.

She was last seen at the military base on April 22 — the day investigators say US Army Specialist Aaron Robinson hit her in the head with a hammer.

Federal prosecutors have said Guillen’s body was burned before it was placed in three different holes near the Leon River in Bell County, roughly 20 miles east of the base, after she was bludgeoned to death.

As cops closed in earlier this month on Robinson, who is said to have conspired his 22-year-old girlfriend Cecily Aguilar to hide the body, he killed himself.

Guillen had allegedly faced sexual harassment at the base.

Last week, 22-year-old Spc. Cole Jakob Aton was hit by a car and killed while directing traffic near the base.

US Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy visited the Central Texas base earlier this month.

It had some of the highest numbers of sexual assault, harassment, and murder.

McCarthy ordered an independent investigation of Fort Hood in July, after cops said Guillen was murdered.

The soldiers who have died at the base this year are: Fernandes; Guillen; Aton; Sgt Bradley Moore; Robinson; Gregory Wedel-Morales; Private Mejhor Morta; Specialist Francisco Gilberto Hernandez-Vargas; Private First Class Brandon Scott Rosecrans; Private First Class Freddy Delacruz Jr; Specialist Christopher Wayne Sawyer; and Specialist Shelby Tyler Jones.

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