KILLEEN, TX — The Killeen Police Department and Army officials are asking for the public's help in locating a missing Fort Hood soldier.
Family members say they have not heard from 23-year-old Elder Fernandes since Monday, August 17.
"I don't know where he is at right now. I don't know what he's feeling, I don't know if he's hurt. I don't know what's going on. I just know he's a good kid. He would never disappear and not tell his family where he is at," said Ailina Fernandes, the soldier's mother.
The soldier was reported missing on Wednesday, August 19. He was last seen by his staff sergeant Monday afternoon when he dropped him off at his residence located in the 2700 block of Woodlands Drive in Killeen.
He did not report to work the following day as scheduled.
Sgt. Fernandes, 23, was born in the Republic of Cabo Verde, an island country in the Atlantic Ocean west of Africa. He joined the Army in September of 2016 and was last seen on August 17, 2020, at a residence in Killeen, Texas. He is 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and 133 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a black Army physical training t-shirt and shorts with black, orange, and yellow athletic shoes.
Information gathered from fellow soldiers so far indicate Fernandes may have left Fort Hood on his own accord, Fort Hood says.
His current duty status is listed as AWOL, or Absent Without Leave.
"This status enables multiple agencies to be involved in the search for Sgt. Fernandes as we work to find him, return him to Fort Hood, and ensure his well-being," a Fort Hood spokesman told 25 News. "This duty status is administrative in nature and does not imply that the Soldier has done anything wrong or illegal."
Fort Hood Commander Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt confirmed to 25 News they do not suspect foul play.
Sgt. Fernandes is a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade (1CDSB).
Officials say the missing soldier transferred to different unit after reporting "abusive sexual contact."
Fort Hood officials say a search of the entire division area, including motorpools, parking lots and headquarters buildings was conducted. Fort Hood says the unit is in contact with the Fernandes family, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and civilian law enforcement agencies.
"Our priority remains getting Sgt. Fernandes back with the people that care about him," said Justin Redfern, commander of the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. "We are concerned for his well-being and want him to continue the care he was receiving before he went missing. Our unit and the Army have the resources to help him."
"We resolve every case based on its unique circumstances. At this time, there is no connection between the disappearance of Sgt. Fernandes and any other ongoing cases at Fort Hood," a statement said. "Sgt. Fernandes’ Leadership initiated a dialogue with his family before his current absence and will remain in contact with them in our efforts to find him."
The soldier is from Brockton, Massachusetts. According to State Representative Liz Miranda, Sgt. Fernandes' car was found with all of his belongings. He recently signed a new lease and never picked up the keys to his apartment.
Detectives with KPD's Criminal Investigation Division are asking anyone who has seen Fernandez or know of his whereabouts to contact Killeen PD at (254) 200-7905.
“We are very concerned about the welfare of this Soldier and first and foremost we want to ensure he is okay,” said Christopher Grey, spokesman for CID. “If someone out there has any information, regardless of how trivial you may think it is, we are asking you to contact us immediately.”
Persons can contact the Fort Hood CID Office at 254-287-2722, the Fort Hood MP desk at 254-287-4001 or contact their local police department. Persons can also anonymously submit information at https://www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html [cid.army.mil]. People wishing to remain anonymous will be honored to the degree allowable under the law and the information will be held in the strictest confidence allowable.
KPD says the incident is being investigated and information will be released as it becomes available.