The Fort Hood military base in Killeen, Texas, is one of the largest military bases in the world, and it also appears to be one of the most dangerous as well. The base has been a source of crime in the region for a long time and this was well-known by locals, but a recent string of mysterious deaths and human trafficking arrests has given Fort Hood a level of media attention that it has never seen before.
According to a 2018 RAND study, Fort Hood had the highest number of reported sexual assaults and rapes of any US military facility worldwide, and it appears that some of the soldiers that mysteriously died this year were also victims of sexual assault.
The body of the most recent victim, Sgt. Elder Fernandes, was found earlier this week, about 25 miles away from the base, laying along the railroad tracks in an isolated area. An autopsy has not yet been completed in the case, and the investigation is still ongoing, but representatives with the base have already told the media that they don’t suspect any foul play in his death.
However, Fernandes was in the midst of following through with a sexual assault complaint about someone else at the base. Just before his death, he was transferred to a different unit because of the alleged sexual assault, but after his death, Army representatives told reporters that they did not believe his allegations after interviewing the suspect.
Special Agent Damon Phelps of the Army’s criminal investigative command, said that they closed their investigation into the sexual assault allegations after the suspect passed a polygraph test.
“Our investigation has been completed and is with the command and their legal team for further action if warranted. I can also share that the subject of the investigation took and passed a polygraph examination, and we found no witnesses that could corroborate Sgt. [Elder] Fernandes’ allegations. There was a thorough legal review, and the allegations were unsubstantiated,” Phelps said in a statement after Fernandes’ body was found, according to Task and Purpose.
There are currently conflicting reports about what took place in the days before Fernandes died, but his death is a part of a larger disturbing trend at the base. The many disappearances that have happened at the base in the past year don’t seem to be connected in any way, but there does seem to be a culture of violence and secrecy that surrounds the place.
The first missing soldier to be reported by the national media was found dead near the base on June 21st. The remains were identified as 24-year-old soldier Gregory Morales, who had been missing for months. His death was not even being investigated, as officials with the Army believed that he deserted the base, but now they do suspect that he was murdered.
Then on July 1st, the body of 20-year-old Vanessa Guillen was found near the base. A suspect in that case, Fort Hood soldier Aaron Robinson, shot and killed himself as police moved in to arrest him.
A woman that officials identified as Robinson’s girlfriend was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of tampering with evidence after admitting that she helped Robinson bury the body.
Guillen had reportedly complained to her family about sexual harassment that she experienced on the base just before her death, and she was said to be filing a complaint against multiple men at the base, including Robinson. Guillen’s family has urged military recruits to reconsidering joining the military and has called on Congress to open a formal investigation into the base.
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