As family and officials reveal more information about the missing soldier, the similarities between his case and Vanessa Guillén’s are striking.
It’s been one week since Fort Hood Sgt. Elder Fernandes was last seen at his home in Killeen, Texas and the details surrounding his disappearance keep emerging. U.S. Army officials stated that he had recently been transferred to a new unit because he reported being sexually abused, a sordid detail that suggests a pattern inside the Texas base.
His family arrived in the area from Boston to help with the efforts to find him but expressed dissatisfaction with how the search is being conducted.
“I feel like I should have the whole army troop out here looking for Elder,” his mother Ailina Fernandes said during a press conference. “I feel like they’re not doing enough.”
She added, “We’re here, and I’m not planning to leave here until my son is found.”
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Besides the news of Fernandes’ sexual abuse, his family added that they have learned the soldier had been in the hospital prior to going missing, without disclosing why he was there. The Army has only acknowledged that he was receiving some care and counseling.
“We can confirm there is an open investigation of abusive sexual contact involving Sgt. Fernandes,” Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam, a 1st Cavalry Division spokesman, said in a statement to NBC News. “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.”
Fort Hood officials allege that Fernandes “left on his own accord and there is no connection between his disappearance and any other ongoing cases at Fort Hood.”
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Vanessa Guillén’s sister, Mayra, has been retweeting several postings about Fernandes, noting the connections between the two cases. One tweet reads, “how many more must go missing? when will Fort Hood be investigated and hold accountable? this has to be put to a stop and a change is now! stop tolerating this enough is enough!”
Like Fernandes, Guillén also was a victim of abuse at Fort Hood. She was missing for months before her remains were discovered.
Anyone with information about Sgt. Elder Fernandes whereabouts is asked to contact the Killeen Police Department at 254-526-TIPS (8477), the Fort Hood CID Office at 254-287-2722, the Fort Hood MP desk at 254-287-4001 or their local police department. Persons can also anonymously submit information at Bell County Crime Stoppers or the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.