Sex abuse allegation of soldier found dead ‘unsubstantiated’, Army says; family disputes claim

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The family of a Fort Hood soldier, who was found dead miles from the Texas base this week, disputes the Army’s assertion that his claims of sexual abuse were unfounded.

Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, previously reported being sexually assaulted, alleging someone grabbed his buttocks, Damon Phelps, an agent with the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), told KCEN-TV.

“Our investigation has been completed, and is with the command and their legal team for further action if warranted,” Phelps said. “I can also share that the subject of the investigation 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.”

Fernandes’ family alleges an assault happened and negatively impacted Fernandes’ mental health.


“He didn’t have any mental health issues when he joined the Army,” family attorney Natalie Khawam said in a press conference, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “He reenlisted this year. He told his mom how happy he was to serve. Everything was great, until he was sexually assaulted by his staff sergeant. He was upset and humiliated.

“That information was then shared with his new unit, unfortunately, then the hazing and bullying continued,” she continued.

Fernandes had been transferred to a new unit within the sprawling central Texas military installation after reporting sexual abuse, Fort Hood officials said.

Calls and messages to CID from Fox News were not returned.

Khawan also represents the family of 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillen, the Fort Hood soldier found dead last month after an intense monthslong search effort. She also claimed to be the victim of sexual assault.

Fernandes was reported missing Aug. 19 and was last seen two days prior. He was found Tuesday near railroad tracks in Temple, about 30 miles away from the base, according to Khawam. Authorities do not suspect foul play.

Fernandes’ death is the latest in a string of tragedies at Fort Hood. Guillen disappeared in April after making a sexual abuse claim. Another soldier from the base, Aaron Robinson, killed himself as authorities were moving in to make an arrest. Cecily Aguilar, 22, pleaded not guilty last month to helping Robinson dispose of Guillen’s remains.


Earlier this month, Brandon Michael Olivares was charged in the May death of 27-year-old Pfc. Brandon Scott Rosecrans. Olivares allegedly shot Rosecrans as they traveled in a Jeep. Rosecrans was left on the side of a road in Harker Heights, a suburb near Fort Hood.

In June, the remains of Pvt. Gregory Wedel Morales were found several miles from the base. He was last seen in August 2019.

Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandez-Vargas, 24, died in a boating accident on Stillhouse Hollow Lake in early August. In July, Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, drowned, also at Stillhouse Lake.

Fox News’ Dom Calicchio contributed to this report.

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