KILLEEN, Texas - The mother of missing Fort Hood soldier Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, is pleading for the public to help her find him.
“When I see his picture of him smiling and know he is nowhere to be found, it just hurts more to look at it,” said Ailina Fernandes, who says she is hurting. “I don't know where he is. I don't know what he's feeling. I don't know if he's hurt. I don't know what's going on with him,” she said.
She says she hasn't heard from her son in over a week. "His phone is completely off," she said. "I don't have any contact with him."
She says her son has been in the Army for almost four years. He was supposed to call her after he got discharged from the hospital Monday but never did.
“So on Tuesday, early in the morning, I called his supervisor. His supervisor told me he was about to call me and tell me Elder never reported to work,” said Ailina.
As soon as she got that call, she says she flew from her home in Boston to Killeen to find her son.
“He will never just disappear and not call me and tell me mom I'm okay, don't worry, he won't do that for no reason. Something's going on with him. We just have to find him,” she said.
Fort Hood says Fernandes was last seen by members of his unit Monday at a home in Killeen. His vehicle was found on post in his unit's parking lot.
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Ailina says Fort Hood officials did say her son was having problems in his unit. “He's been in Texas for seven or eight months. He was just having some issue lately inside his unit,” she said.
Fort Hood released a statement saying Fernandes was a victim of sexual abuse:
We can confirm that there is an open investigation of abuse sexual contact involving Sgt. Fernandes. The chain of command takes all allegations of sexual harassment and assault seriously. The unit sexual assault response coordinator has been working closely with Sgt. Fernandes, ensuring he was aware of all his reporting, care, and victim advocacy options. The unit also facilitated his transfer from a unit who has recently deployed to a different unit within the brigade to ensure he received the proper care and ensure there were no opportunities for reprisals. We will provide updates as we are able once CID completes their investigation.
A mother is searching for her son in an area she says she barely knows anything about. She says she does know her son is out there and she needs to find him.
“It's those moments that you can't sleep. You can't eat, you can't, you can't do anything. You can’t think of anything else that isn’t Elder,” Ailina said.
Sgt. Fernandes is 5’5 tall and 133 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a black Army physical training shirt and shorts with black, orange, and yellow athletic shoes.
If you have any information on where Fernandes might be, call Killeen Police at (254) 200-7905 or 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. People can also anonymously submit information online.