Sgt. Elder Fernandes Lawyer: We Don’t Know If It Was Suicide Or Murder


Image via Fort Hood Press Center

By Araceli Cruz

August 28, 2020

New details now reveal that on the same day he was last seen, Fernandes had been released from the hospital.

Fort Hood officials and the lawyer representing the family of Sgt. Elder Fernandes disclosed more information about a series of events that led up to his tragic death. 

Army officials had previously stated that Fernandes disclosed he was sexually abused at Fort Hood, however new details reveal that the 23-year-old soldier had been struggling with abuse for months. Lawyer Natalie Khawam, who represents the family of Fernandes and Vanessa Guillén, said the cause of death remains suspicious even though police say there was no foul play involved. 

READ MORE: #IAmVanessaGuillén: Why Women Are Sharing Their Stories of Assault in the Military

“They don’t know what happened — whether it was suicide or whether murder. But I’m gonna tell you, what they did to him, the blood on their hands, it’s a form of murder,” Khawam said in an interview with USA Today.

On Aug. 25, Fernandes was found hanging from a tree in Temple, Texas, which is 30 miles from Fort Hood. Temple police say the body had been there for quite some time. 

On Aug. 17, Fernandes was dropped off at his residence outside the base by a fellow soldier, and that was the last time anyone saw him. New details now reveal that on that same day, Fernandes had been released from the hospital. He was first admitted to the hospital on Aug. 11, after missing work on Aug. 10. Army officials say he was released on Aug. 17 after “he cleared all protocols and was deemed fit for duty by medical providers.”

Army officials did not disclose why he was in the hospital but did say that Fernandes was on “spiral down effect” after he reported that he had been sexually abused in mid-March. Fernandes moved out of the base and into independent housing in April. 

“Sgt. Fernandes did report that he was sexually assaulted when someone allegedly grabbed his buttocks,” Special Agent Damon Phelps said in a statement. “Our investigation has been completed and with the command and legal team for further action, if warranted. I can also share that the subject did then took and passed a polygraph examination and we found no witnesses that could corroborate Sgt. Fernandes’ allegations. There was a thorough legal review and the allegations were unsubstantiated.”

READ MORE: Joe Biden’s Plan for Military Families Inspired by Son Beau’s Service

Khawam said that Fernandes suffered greatly after reporting his sexual abuse, saying that he was “humiliated,” “embarrassed,” “afraid,” and “ashamed.” 

“He couldn’t even tell his mom. He didn’t want to tell anyone,” Khawam told USA Today

Army officials said they are cooperating with local authorities from the cities of Killeen and Temple as this incident remains under investigation.




Local News

Related Stories