Family questions events surrounding fort hood soldier’s disappearance

Fernandes' family said they simply cannot believe Sgt. Fernandes went missing on purpose and they take issue with that being the official line.
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 11:49 AM CDT
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(KCEN/NBC News)  The family of a missing Fort Hood soldier is questioning the Army’s account of his disappearance.

Sgt. Elder Fernandes was last seen by members of his unit on August 17 at a home in Killeen, Texas according to Army officials.

Officials met with the Fernandes family Sunday on Fort Hood to share information about the case. After that meeting, the Fernandes family said they simply cannot believe Sgt. Fernandes went missing on purpose and they take issue with that being the official line.

"When you assume he left on his own accord and when you write things like, 'He needs to come back to get the care that he was under,' That leaves the public to believe that we are looking for a mentally ill service member," Fernandes' Cousin Mariana Shorter said. "That's the wrong assumption. With the credibility and character that he has, he would not put his mother through this." 

Family members said Monday that Fernandes was admitted to Carl R. Darnell Memorial Hospital on August 11. His aunt, Isabel Fernandes, said the family called him every day but he told them very little about why he was there. The family said Fort Hood officials informed them later that Fernandes had been suicidal, but they don't know exactly when. 

They said Fernandes was released on August 17 and was, allegedly, taken back to a home where he had formerly lived in Killeen. The family said there are several red flags with that story.  

First, his mother, Ailina Fernandes, said she had spoken to him the day before and he had promised to call. Other family members vouched that they had an extremely close relationship. 

"The last time we talked on Sunday evening he told me, 'Mom, as soon as I get out of the hospital and get my cell phone I will call you. I'll make a video call so you can see me,'" Ailina Fernandes said. "These were his last words to me. I promise you I will call you Monday and it never happened. It's not OK!"

The family said Fernandes was cleared to return to work. When they spoke to officials about who exactly took Fernandes home, however, they said officials could not give then access to the "Members of his unit," as referred to in the Fort Hood press release, that took him home. 

"We know it's a staff sergeant. We have requested permission to speak with him to find out 'what kind of conversation did yall have? What state of mind was he in?' We have not had the opportunity to speak with this gentleman," Shorter said.

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