AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The body of a missing soldier is believed to have been found about 30 miles from Fort Hood.
Sgt. Elder Fernandes, who was stationed at the Army base, was last seen on August 17 and was reported missing August 19.
Identification found with the body in Temple, Texas, indicates it may be that of Sgt. Fernandes, according to a statement from local police. Forensic confirmation is pending.
Fernandes is the third soldier from Fort Hood to go missing in the past year, and two have been found dead this summer.
Temple police received a call Tuesday afternoon reporting a man was on the ground near some railroad tracks. When officers arrived, they determined the man had been dead for some time.
Foul play is not suspected, police said, but the investigation is ongoing. An autopsy has been ordered.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fernandes family during this challenging time,” Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds said.
Natalie Khawam, who is representing the Fernandes family, said Army police told family members about the discovery late Tuesday night. She said the body was found hanging in a tree.
Fernandes’ backpack was with him, Khawam said, and police found the 23-year-old man’s driver’s license inside.
Officials say Fernandes was last seen by a superior who dropped him off at his house in Killeen. Fort Hood said in a statement over the weekend that Fernandes had transferred units after reporting sexual abuse.
Fort Hood officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The Army and the Fernandes family, from Massachusetts, had asked the public for help in finding the missing soldier.
“I am saddened that another soldier who served the country has been destroyed by sexual assault and sexual harassment and this toxic culture in the military that exists,” said Khawam, who is also representing the family of Vanessa Guillen, another Fort Hood soldier who went missing and who was found dead.
The Army said a fellow soldier killed her.
U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in a visit to Fort Hood earlier this month that the Central Texas base had some of the highest numbers of sexual assault, harassment and murder. He ordered an independent probe of Fort Hood in July, after authorities said Guillen was slain.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)