BROCKTON, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — U.S. Army Sergeant Elder Fernandes has been laid to rest in his hometown of Brockton, weeks after his body was found near the base where he was stationed in Killeen, Texas.
Dozens of people gathered at the St. Edith Stein Parish for the funeral mass Saturday morning, while others watched the ceremony on the funeral home's virtual live stream.
23-year-old Sgt. Fernandes was a 2015 graduate of Brockton High School who enlisted in the Army in 2016. According to Stars And Stripes, in December he returned from a three-year deployment to Germany and was sent to Fort Hood.
Fernandes was serving with the 1st Cavalry Division when he was reported missing from the base in mid-August. Prior to his disappearance, he had reported an incident of abusive sexual contact by a senior officer, which was under investigation by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division.
Sgt. Fernandes was also hospitalized from August 11, and he was last seen by members of his unit on August 17. He did not show up for work the following day. His body was found the following week, about 25 miles east of the military base.
Officials said at the time there was "no indication of foul play." According to a preliminary autopsy released this week by a Dallas County medical examiner, Fernandes died of suicide by hanging. He was the 10th soldier to disappear from the base this year, according to the Boston Globe.
In a letter sent last month to the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, nearly a dozen Massachusetts lawmakers requested the DoD investigate Fernandes' death, and the Army's response to his disappearance.
"As Members of Congress representing Sgt. Fernandes and his family, we demand a full and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death, including allegations of abusive sexual contact, bullying, and retaliation,” the lawmakers wrote. “We also ask you to investigate the Army’s response to Sgt. Fernandes’ disappearance and whether Army leaders kept the Fernandes family appropriately informed about the search for their missing relative until he was found on August 25.”
According to the Patriot Ledger, an independent group of five civilians with "a combined 75 years of experience in active-duty military or law enforcement," have started a “fact-finding mission" to determine the possible root causes for the recent violence and sexual misconduct at the Fort Hood Army base.
(Photo: Mike Macklin/WBZ NewsRadio)