Elder Fernandes' death ruled a suicide as new commander named at Fort Hood

A Dallas county medical examiner announced Tuesday that 23-year-old Elder Fernandes died by suicide in August. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army
A Dallas county medical examiner announced Tuesday that 23-year-old Elder Fernandes died by suicide in August. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

Sept. 1 (UPI) -- The Army installed a new commanding general at Fort Hood in Texas Tuesday -- the same day an autopsy report revealed that a soldier who went missing from the installation in August had taken his own life.

The Army announced Tuesday that it has named a four-star general to take command at Fort Hood in Texas, and will investigate the chain of action's commands in relationship to the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen earlier this year.


Also on Tuesday, the Dallas County medical examiner released a report on the death of Sgt. Elder Fernandes, who went missing in mid-August and was found Aug. 25.

According to that report, Fernandes died in a suicide by hanging.

His death is one of a series of violent or suspicious deaths on the installation that have drawn scrutiny of the base, including questions about sexual harassment and assault of soldiers.

Fort Hood officials confirmed at the end of August that Fernandes had filed a sexual assault report against someone at the installation, though they said it was not substantiated.


The Army did not name the alleged assailant, but Natalie Khawam, the attorney who represents the families of both Fernandes and Guillen, has said Fernandes was harassed by his sergeant.

Before her death Guillen had also told family members she was being sexually harassed by someone on the installation.

One of the suspects in Guillen's death, Spc. Aaron David Robinson, died by suicide in July when law enforcement tried to contact him.

And investigators suspect foul play in the death of Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales, who went missing, a soldier who went missing last August but was found dead in June.

According to the Army, Maj. John B. Richardson IV will formally assume duties as deputy commanding general for operations of III Corps and acting senior commander of Fort Hood Wednesday, per the direction of U.S. Army Forces Command commander Gen. Michael Garrett.

Army Futures Command leader Gen. John Murray will also lead an investigation into the chain of command's handling of Guillen's disappearance in April.

Murray's investigation will be separate from an independent review of Fort Hood that started in August.

Richardson, who steps into his new role Wednesday, effectively replaces Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt as senior deputy commander at Fort Hood.


According to the Army, Efflandt will continue to serve as the deputy commanding general for support and will remain at Fort Hood to assist with the reintegration of III Corps when they return from supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq.

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