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Family lawyer: Fort Hood soldier found dead was 'humiliated' after reporting sexual abuse

Family lawyer: Fort Hood soldier found dead was 'humiliated' after reporting sexual abuse
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Sgt. Elder Fernandes, the Fort Hood soldier whose body was found in Temple, Texas, on Tuesday, was “humiliated” after reporting sexual abuse, his family attorney said.

On Tuesday, Fernandes was found hanging in a tree in Temple, which is about 28 miles from the Fort Hood base, months after he had gone missing in April. Natalie Khawam, the family’s attorney, said the U.S. Army's base in Texas created an environment that led to Fernandes’s death. 

“They don’t know what happened — whether it was suicide or whether murder. But I’m gonna tell you, what they did to him, the blood on their hands, it’s a form of murder,” Khawam said Wednesday afternoon at a press conference in Tampa, Fla., The Enterprise reported. 

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“He was humiliated; he was embarrassed. He couldn’t even tell his mom; he didn’t want to tell anyone. He was afraid. He was ashamed by this," she said.

The person Fernandes accused of sexual assault “kept harassing him” and “hazing him, torturing him, making his life impossible,” Khawam said.

Army officials told the Enterprise that Fernandes was moved to another unit after reporting sexual abuse and an investigation into his allegations was completed “fairly recently” and found “the allegations were unsubstantiated.”

His family maintains that he was telling the truth.

"That is a bunch of lies and cover ups,” Isabel Fernandes wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday night. “So how convenient is it that it took the army almost 4 months, with Elder alive to conclude the sexual harassment investigation and they didn’t do it, but a day after he is found dead the result is not only concluded BUT inconclusive????”

Fernandes was the third Fort Hood soldier to go missing in the last year.

Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, 20, went missing in April before her body was discovered months later in July. Army officials suspect another soldier, Aaron David Robinson, was involved in her disappearance before he took his own life.  

Pfc. Gregory Morales, 24, went missing exactly one year before Fernandes. His remains were discovered in June in Killeen, Texas, and his death remains under investigation.