AUSTIN, Texas – The body of a missing soldier is believed to have been found about 30 miles from Fort Hood, the Texas Army base where he was stationed, police said Tuesday.
Identification found on the body in Temple, Texas, indicated it could be the missing man, Fort Hood Soldier Sgt. Elder Fernandes, according to a statement from local police. Forensic confirmation is pending.
Fernandes is the third Fort Hood soldier to go missing in the past year and two have been found dead this summer.
Temple police received a call about a man who had been seen near the train tracks, according to the statement. When officers arrived, they determined that the man was dead.
A criminal act is not suspected, police said, but the investigation is ongoing. An autopsy has been ordered.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Fernandes family during this challenging time,” said Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds.
This is the fifth soldier who has died at the same military base in recent months.
Natalie Khawam, who represents the Fernandes family, said Army police told relatives about the discovery Tuesday night. She added that the body was found hanging from a tree.
Fernandes’s backpack was with him, Khawam said, and police found the 23-year-old man’s driver’s license inside.
Fernandes was reported missing by Killeen police and the US Army on August 19 after he was last seen on August 17, when authorities said a superior dropped him off at his home. Fort Hood said in a statement over the weekend that Fernandes had transferred units after reporting sexual abuse, according to an Army official in a statement.
Fort Hood officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The Army and the Fernandes family of 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 harassment and this toxic military culture that exists,” said Khawam, who also represents the family of Vanessa Guillén, another Fort Hood soldier who went missing and was found dead.
The army said a colleague killed the soldier.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said on a visit to Fort Hood earlier this month that the central Texas base had one of the highest numbers of sexual assault, stalking and murder. He ordered an independent investigation of Fort Hood in July after authorities said Guillen was killed.