Authorities searching for another missing Fort Hood soldier

By ELLA TORRES and MATT SEYLER, ABC News

(KILLEEN, Texas) — Authorities in Texas are searching for another missing Fort Hood soldier, following a tumultuous period for the base, including other disappearances and deaths.

Sgt. Elder Fernandes, a 23-year-old chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, has not been heard from by his family since Monday, prompting them to report him missing two days later, according to a statement from the Killeen Police Department issued Thursday evening.

His mother, Ailina Fernandes, and aunt, Isabel Fernandes, told ABC News on Friday that he had been hospitalized recently, but was discharged Monday. Both his mom and aunt said they spoke to him on the phone while he was at the hospital, but he did not reveal much as to why he was there.

Fernandes was last seen by his staff sergeant on Monday afternoon, when he was dropped off at a residence located in the 2700 block of Woodlands Drive in Killeen, police said. His aunt said she spoke to his friends, who told her that where the sergeant dropped him off was not where Fernandes lived.

When his mother eventually went to the base to check on him on Wednesday, she said she found his car with all his belongings inside. Fernandes also had a new apartment waiting to be moved into with utilities paid, but he never picked up the key, according to his mom.

Fort Hood is involved in the search.

“Our primary concern is for his health and well-being,” the statement from Fort Hood read in part. “We have completed a search of the entire division area, to include motorpools, parking lots, and headquarters buildings and the unit is in contact with the Soldiers Family, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and civilian law enforcement agencies to help find him as we continue our search.”

His aunt said it was not like her nephew to be out of touch.

“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,” she told ABC Houston station KTRK. “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.”

Fernandes’ disappearance comes after a difficult month for Fort Hood.

Pvt. Mejhor Morta, a 26-year-old Fort Hood soldier, was found dead on July 17 in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir, government officials and local police said. Investigators said he likely drowned.

About two weeks before that, on July 1, human remains were discovered near Fort Hood and subsequently identified as Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old soldier who had been missing since late April. A suspect in the case, 20-year-old Army specialist Aaron Robinson, died by suicide as officials moved in on him. Another suspect, Cecily Aguilar, 22, Robinson’s girlfriend, is accused of helping him dispose of Guillen’s body. She was charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and pleaded not guilty.

On June 19, skeletal remains were found near Fort Hood based on an anonymous tip and later identified as Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales, who had been last seen Aug. 19, 2019. Foul play is believed to have played a role in the death, according to KTRK.

Fernandes was wearing black Army shorts, a t-shirt and red athletic shoes. Anyone with information on Fernandes is urged to 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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