Congress launched a formal investigation into the numerous deaths at Fort Hood, which includes the death of the 23-year-old.
A Dallas medical examiner determined that suicide was the cause of death for Sgt. Elder Fernandes, NBC News reported. The Massachusetts native went missing mid-August and was found hanging from a tree on Aug. 25.
On Aug. 28, Massachusetts lawmakers sent a letter to the Department of Defense to investigate what led to the death of Fort Hood soldier Sgt. Elder Fernandes.
“We are heartbroken by Sgt. Fernandes’ death,” reads the letter signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch, Jim McGovern, Joe Kennedy III, Lori Trahan, Ayanna Pressley, Bill Keating, Richard Neal, Katherine Clark and Seth Moulton. “As Members of Congress representing Sgt. Fernandes and his family, we demand a full and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death, including allegations of abusive sexual contact, bullying, and retaliation.”
The missive, addressed to Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell, asked for an investigation into the Army’s response to Sgt. Fernandes’ disappearance and “whether Army leaders kept the Fernandes family appropriately informed about the search for their missing relative until he was found on August 25.”
The letter includes statements from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and public reports, which state that Fernandes was hospitalized between Aug. 11 and Aug. 17, 2020.
Details from Fort Hood officials indicate that Fernandes was on “spiral down effect” after he reported being sexually abused in mid-March. Fernandes moved out of the base and into independent housing in April.
According to the family’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, who represents the family of Fernandes and Vanessa Guillén, the soldier was “bullied” and “hazed” for reporting abusive sexual contact.
“We are also disturbed by reports that while Sgt. Fernandes was missing, his family ‘chastised the Army’s investigation’ and ‘said the Army took too long to get the public involved’,” the letter stated. “We must do more than grieve the loss of Sgt. Fernandes—we must seek justice and answers for his family. That starts with a full and complete investigation.”
Fernandes is the 10th soldier to die at Fort Hood under questionable circumstances this year. On September 8, Congress announced it had launched a formal investigation into the numerous deaths at Fort Hood, which includes the death of the 23-year-old.