KILLEEN, Texas: A team from Equusearch patrolled the area surrounding a house on Woodlands Drive where Sgt. Elder Fernandes was last seen after going missing on Fort Hood.
Fernandes’ family traveled from their home in Brockton, Massachusetts and plan to stay in Texas to help with the search. Fernandes’ mother, Ailina, has not heard from him since Sunday.
The search included the area surrounding the house he was supposedly dropped off at Monday, and the adjacent area includes a thick underbrush.
“We have about seven people up here, they’re on foot and ATV’s,” Equusearch search coordinator Mark Rogers said. “We’ve thoroughly searched those areas.”
Ailina Fernandes says her son was in the hospital for six days, saying only that he needed to “clear his mind.”
“I knew he had a lot of pressure on him from the Army people I know he does not want to be with the Army any longer, I know he was unhappy with them,” Ailina Fernandes said. “I know he was getting bullied inside the Army, and that’s all I know.”
Fort Hood confirmed Friday that Elder Fernandes had filed an abusive sexual conduct report against the Army before going missing. They say he was also transferred from a unit that was recently deployed to a different unit within the brigade.
The parallels with the Vanessa Guillen case haunt the family.
“That’s scary, that’s a nightmare, that’s something that should never happen,” Ailina Fernandes said. “What happened to Vanessa, what happened to the other soldiers that I don’t have the names of on the top of my head right now, it is terrifying. It is terrifying for any parent to think that might be happening to their own child.”
In a statement released Saturday, Fort Hood said:
“Foul play is not suspected in the disappearance of Sgt. Elder Fernandes. He was last seen at a residence in Killeen, Texas. “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.”
Information gathered from fellow Soldiers indicate Sgt. Fernandes left on his own accord. 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. 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.
We thank those who have expressed concern for his safety and are helping us find our teammate. We are especially grateful for the efforts of the Killeen Police Department and US Army CID. We ask for the continued support and assistance of the community to help find him.
Sgt. Fernandes, 23, was last seen by members of his unit on August 17, 2020, at a residence in Killeen, Texas. He did not report to work the following day as scheduled. He is African American, 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.
Please contact the Killeen Police Department at 254-526-TIPS (8477), https://www.bellcountycrimestoppers.com , the Fort Hood CID Office at 254-287-2722, the Fort Hood MP desk at 254-287-4001 or your local police department. Persons can also anonymously submit information at https://www.bellcountycrimestoppers.com or https://www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html. 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.
Thank you for your concerns from all of the over 18,000 Soldiers in the First Team who care about the welfare of our teammate.”
There is a GoFundMe set up to help keep the family in Texas to assist with the search.