KILLEEN, Texas — As the family of Fort Hood Soldier Sgt. Elder Fernandes continues to ask questions about his disappearance, the Fort Hood 1st Cavalry Division Office of Public Affairs now directs any media questions about missing person cases to the Killeen Police Department. This comes after Fort Hood sent out three press releases about the soldiers' disappearance since Friday.
Fort Hood's press release from August 21 states, "Fernandes, 23, was last seen by members of his unit on August 17, 2020, at a residence in Killeen, Texas."
Family members told 6 News Monday the release leaves out some key pieces of information needed to find out what happened to Fernandes.
"There is no proof of who picked him up. There is no proof of where he went. There is no proof of where he was really dropped off. There is no proof of anything," Cousin Isabel Fernandez said.
Family members told 6 News that Fernandes was at the Carl R. Darnell Army Medical Center from between August 11 and August 17, though officials would not tell them what he was being treated for. The family said Fernandes had previously been suicidal.
The family said Fernandes was cleared from the hospital on August 17 and officials told them a staff Sgt. gave him a ride to the 2700 block of Woodlands Drive in Killeen the same day. There were two problems with this story, however.
First, Fernandes no longer lived the location he was driven too. He had moved out in late July. Second, while the Fort Hood press release stated Fernandes, "Was last seen by members of his unit on August 17, 2020, at a residence in Killeen," family members could not find anyone at the location who had seen the soldier get dropped off.
"The roommates told us he was never there. They had never seen him on that Monday. He had already moved out from that apartment," Mother Ailina Fernandes said. "Nobody had seen him open the door or get inside the house. We don't know after that."
6 News sent the 1st Cavalry Division Office of Public Affairs multiple questions Monday and Tuesday to try to clear up this confusion. 6 News asked if the members of Fernandes unit referred to in the press release were the same individuals that drove him to the location, or if they met him there. 6 News also asked when Fort Hood Officials discovered that Fernandes didn't actually live at the location and asked if the persons who took Fernandes to the home had been ordered to do so or had driven him voluntarily.
Public Affairs Officer LTC Chris Brautigam responded to these questions in an email that states, "Refer to KPD for specifics of the missing persons investigation they are leading," and, "It would be improper for us to share the individual home address of any Soldier or to comment on the ongoing investigation led by KPD."
6 News had not asked for the individual address of the soldier but had asked if Fort Hood knew Fernandez no longer lived at the address they drove him to.
6 News also asked if Fort Hood returned to the address the next today to search for Fernandes. Brautigam stated in the email, "Within hours of Sgt. Fernandes being identified as absent on August 18, Soldiers from his unit on Fort Hood initiated a thorough search for him, both on and off post, which will continue until he is located. With the Commanding General's oversight, the unit reached out to every unit across Fort Hood, providing a photograph, and asking them to report any sightings or information. All Division motor pools, parking lots, barracks, and HQs buildings have been thoroughly searched. Additionally, Soldiers have visited local hotels and hospitals throughout central Texas and continue to expand their search efforts. The chain of command is working closely with local civilian and military agencies to coordinate search efforts."
Despite this statement, the Killeen PD did not release any information on Fernandes until Wednesday, August 19. The KPD post stated it received the information about the missing soldier from the Fernandes Family and did not mention Fort Hood.
6 News reached out to the Killeen Police Department for additional information about the case today but the department did provide any new details.
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