Friends and family of U.S. Army Sgt. Elder Fernandes received tragic news more than a week after his disappearance.
According to a report by The Hill, his body was recovered on Tuesday from a location in Temple, Texas, about 30 miles away from where he had been stationed at Fort Hood.
“No forensic confirmation”
Natalie Khawam, an attorney for the Fernandes family, confirmed the update in a tweet early Wednesday morning.
“Our worst nightmare has happened,” she wrote, expressing the devastation of the 23-year-old sergeant’s “heartbroken” loved ones.
The Temple Police Department issued a statement providing details regarding the circumstances of the discovery “near the railroad tracks” after authorities received the report of a body observed at the scene.
“Upon officers’ arrival, it was determined that the subject had been deceased for some period of time,” the agency wrote, citing identification near the body as the primary method of preliminarily confirming the remains were those of the missing man.
“However, no forensic confirmation has been made at this time,” the police statement concluded.
“Sickened by this tragedy”
While investigators say “there is no indication of foul play,” Justice of the Peace Ted Duffield has reportedly ordered an autopsy to be performed. A joint investigation into the death remains ongoing between Temple police and Fort Hood authorities.
Reports indicate there had been “an open investigation of abusive sexual contact” involving Fernandes and he had been transferred to a different unit after coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse.
“We are sickened by this tragedy that has happened one too many times,” Khawam added in her tweet.
Fernandes is reportedly the third soldier stationed at Fort Hood to be found dead in the past year after being reported missing. Spc. Vanessa Guillen is believed to have been killed by fellow soldier Aaron David Robinson, who later reportedly committed suicide.
While there are plenty of details that remain unknown in this case, one certainty is the pain this death inflicted on those who knew and loved him. Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds echoed the sentiments of all those whose “thoughts and prayers are with the Fernandes family during this challenging time.”