KILLEEN, Texas - The 1st Cavalry Division has confirmed that Sgt. Elder Fernandes had reported abusive sexual contact before his disappearance.
The division confirmed Friday that US Army CID has an open investigation of abuse sexual contact involving Fernandes. The division says 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.
Fernandes was transferred from a recently deployed unit to another unit with the brigade "to ensure he received the proper care and ensure there were no opportunities for reprisals," says the division in a statement.
Fernandes was reported missing by his family after they had not heard from the 23-year-old since Monday. Fernandes was last seen by his staff sergeant Monday afternoon when he dropped Fernandes off at his home on Woodlands Drive in Killeen. He did not report to work the following day as scheduled.
Additionally, his only known vehicle was located on base at his unit’s parking lot.
Elder Fernandes (Killeen Police Department)
Fernandes is Black, 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and 133 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a black Army physical training shirt and shorts with black, orange, and yellow athletic shoes.
Information gathered from fellow Soldiers so far indicate Fernandes may have left Fort Hood on his own accord, according to the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command.
A search for SGT Fernandes is ongoing by Fort Hood Soldiers, Army CID Special Agents, the Killeen Police Department, and other state and local law enforcement agencies.
Fernandes's disappearance comes after the disappearance and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen which made national headlines. Guillen went missing from Fort Hood in April and her remains were found in a shallow grave near the Leon River in Bell County in June.
Cecily Anne Aguilar, 22, of Killeen was arrested for second-degree felony tampering/fabricating physical evidence with intent to impair a human corpse in connection with Guillen's disappearance and murder. Federal authorities have also filed a conspiracy to tamper with evidence charge. Officials say Aguilar is the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier.
The other suspect in Guillen's disappearance was identified Thursday as Spc. Aaron David Robinson of Calumet City, Illinois. Robinson took his own life when law enforcement attempted to make contact with him after he fled from Fort Hood.
The criminal complaint against Aguilar shared by the US Attorney's office says that Robinson told Aguilar that he killed a female soldier by striking her in the head with a hammer while on Fort Hood on April 22. Robinson further admitted to her that he transferred the woman’s body off base to a remote site in Bell County. Subsequently, Robinson enlisted her help in disposing of the body.
The proposed “#IAmVanessaGuillen” bill, written by the Guillen family’s attorney Natalie Khawam, will allow soldiers to report their sexual harassment or assault to an agency outside their chain of command. If passed it will provide a safe and independent way to protect soldier’s rights without fear of retaliation.
Detectives with KPD's Criminal Investigation Division are asking anyone who has seen him or knows where he is to call KPD at 254-200-7905. Information can also be given by contacting the Fort Hood Military Police at 254-288-1170 or US Army CID at 254-287-2722.
You can also contact the Fort Hood CID Office at 254-287-2722 or the Fort Hood MP desk at 254-287-4001. Information can also be anonymously submitted by clicking here. People wishing to remain anonymous will be honored to the degree allowable under the law and the information will be held in the strictest confidence allowable.