A soldier that was stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas was arrested and charged with the 2019 murder of a 32-year-old woman named Chelsea Lynell Cheatham. Cory Grafton, the 20-year-old suspect, was arrested on Tuesday for first-degree murder and his bond was set at $1 million.
The murder took place over a year ago, in early June of 2019. On June 3rd, police found Cheatham at a Days Inn hotel in Killeen unconscious and not breathing. Cheatham was pronounced dead at the scene, but police did not immediately suspect foul play.
A recent autopsy indicated that the death was a homicide, and a witness told police that Grafton as at the scene of the crime before Cheatham was found dead. Police also reported that Texas Rangers found that DNA on Cheatham matched Grafton.
Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam told CNN that officials at the base are cooperating with police in their investigation.
“We confirm that Spc. Corey L. Grafton is an active duty Soldier assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. The unit continues to cooperate with the Killeen Police Department and the Texas Rangers,” he said.
The name that the police have for the suspect is spelled differently than the name that is on record with Fort Hood. The name on record with Fort Hood is spelled Corey, while the name on police records is spelled Cory.
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 first missing soldier to be reported by the national media was found dead near the base on June 21st of this year. 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, 2020, 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.
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.
The body of the most recent victim, Sgt. Elder Fernandes, was found in August, about 25 miles away from the base, laying along the railroad tracks in an isolated area. 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.
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