Missing Fort Hood soldier reported sexual abuse months before disappearance, Army official says

KILLEEN, Texas — Sgt. Elder Fernandes, who was reported missing from Fort Hood on Wednesday, had transferred units after reporting sexual abuse, an Army official said in a statement.

Fort Hood public affairs officer Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam said in a statement there was an “open investigation of abusive sexual contact” involving Fernandes, The Associated Press reported.

Fernandes, 23, is the third Fort Hood soldier to go missing since 2019, and was last seen Aug. 17 when his staff sergeant dropped him off at home. Investigation Command opened an investigation into the reported misconduct a few of months ago, Fox News reported.

“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,” Brautigam said in the statement. Brautigam said Fernandes had been transferred to another unit “to ensure he received the proper care and ensure there were no opportunities for reprisals.”

Fernandes, who was last seen wearing black Army shorts, a T-shirt and red athletic shoes, is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs roughly 133 pounds.

Fernandes’ disappearance is the latest in a string dating back to the Aug. 19, 2019, disappearance of 24-year-old Pvt. 2nd-Class Gregory Wedel-Morales. Morales’ skeletal remains were discovered June 21 in a Killeen field about 10 miles from Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

U.S. Army officials found more human remains July 1, later identified as Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, who had been missing since April 22. Guillen’s remains were found about 20 miles east of the post.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.