Police in Texas discovered a body on Tuesday that they believe is Sgt. Elder Fernandes, a Fort Hood soldier who has been missing for nine days.
“Identification found at the scene indicates the victim may be missing Fort Hood Soldier 23-year-old Elder Fernandes,” police in Temple, Texas, said, adding that officers determined “the subject had been deceased for some period of time.”
An attorney for Fernandes’ family, Natalie Khawan, said in a statement, “Our worst nightmare has happened.”
“One of our own, Sergeant Elder Fernandes was found dead,” she said. “We are sickened by this tragedy that has happened one too many times. We are heartbroken for Elder Fernandes’s family.”
Police in Temple, which is about 30 miles east of Fort Hood, said in a statement that the department received a call around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday about a body found near railroad tracks in the city.
Fernandes’ driver’s license was found in a backpack near the body, Khawan told NBC Boston.
Authorities said they did not suspect foul play, but did not specify a cause of death.
Fernandes, of Brockton, Massachusetts, was recently transferred to a different unit because he was an alleged victim of “abusive sexual contact,” U.S. Army officials said Saturday. He was last seen Aug 17.
Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam, a 1st Cavalry Division spokesman told NBC News last week that there was an “open investigation of abusive sexual contact involving Sgt. 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,” he said. Fernandes was recently transferred from a unit that was deployed to another unit “to ensure he received the proper care and ensure there were no opportunities for reprisals.”
In her statement, Khawan called for a congressional investigation into Fort Hood, which has seen a series of soldier disappearances and deaths in the past year.
Earlier this month, Fort Hood officials recovered the body of Francisco Gilberto Hernandez-Vargas, 24, following an Aug. 2 boating incident on Stillhouse Hollow Lake, a reservoir managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Fort Worth District.
Mejhor Morta, 26, was found unresponsive July 17 in the vicinity of Stillhouse Hollow Lake, according to Fort Hood officials.
On July 1, human remains that were later identified as 20-year-old missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen were found about 20 miles east of the base. A suspect in that case, Fort Hood soldier Aaron Robinson, shot and killed himself as police moved in to arrest him. A woman that officials identified as Robinson’s girlfriend was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of tampering with evidence.
On June 21, skeletal remains were found in a field in Killeen, just over 10 miles from Stillhouse Hollow Lake, which were subsequently identified as 24-year-old missing Fort Hood soldier Gregory Morales. U.S. Army officials have said they suspect foul play in his death.