KILLEEN, TX– It’s a case that’s leaving some wondering… is there a serial killer out there targeting soldiers? Here’s what we know so far – and it doesn’t help the rumors with investigators being so tight lipped.
U.S. Army officials have identified a soldier that was found dead less than 20 miles from Fort Hood. Private Mehjor Morta, 26 is the third Fort Hood solider to be found dead in the past month and the seventh since the beginning of 2020.
According to CNN, the Bell County’s Sheriff’s Office is still investigating Morta’s death. On Wednesday, Lt. Bob Reinhard, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement:
“We are at a place where we don’t have any information to release at this time. The investigation is ongoing.”
According to a media release from Fort Hood’s press center, Morta was found unresponsive July 17th in the vicinity of Stillhouse Lake.
The body of a Fort Hood soldier has been found by a lake near the military installation, officials say, marking the third time in a month that remains of a service member from the Texas base have been found. https://t.co/9u0011MSWi
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 22, 2020
The sheriff’s department said in a statement sent to NPR that Morta’s body was spotted shortly after midnight last Friday by fishermen who were in a boat near the base of the man-made lake’s dam.
Law enforcement officials located his remains after being called to the scene.
According to the sheriff’s department, an autopsy was ordered by Justice of the Peace Garland Potvin and the preliminary results show the cause of death is consistent with drowning. A full autopsy report is pending from the medical examiner’s office in Dallas, Texas.
According to Army officials, Morta, originally from Pensacola, Florida, joined the Army back in September 2019 as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic. In May 2020, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, and 1st Cavalry Division.
Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, commander of the 1st Bn. and 5th Cav. Regt. said in a statement:
“The Black Knight family (the nickname for Morta’s Army unit) is truly heartbroken by the tragic loss of Private Mejhor Morta. I would like to send my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time. Private Morta was a great trooper and this loss is felt by every member within our formation.”
Two other Fort Hood soldiers were recently found dead. On June 30th, investigators discovered human remains that have since been identified as Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen. A day later, on July 1st, the soldier suspected in Guillen’s disappearance, Specialist Aaron David Robinson, fatally shot himself after police attempted to confront him.
A Fort Hood soldier was found dead at a nearby lake, the 3rd death since June. It is unclear if they are connected.
Mejhor Morta was 26.
— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 22, 2020
Earlier in June, authorities found the body of Private 2nd Class Gregory Wedel-Morales, who went missing almost a year ago while driving in Killeen. Earlier than that, in March, 20-year-old Specialist Shelby Tyler Jones, died from an apparent gunshot wound in Killeen.
According to a media release from Fort Hood’s press center, Jones entered the Army in May 2017 as a cavalry scout and was assigned to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment since August 2018. Jones was also decorated earning the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the National Defense Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon.
That same month, March 2020, Specialist Christopher Wayne Sawyer, 29 was found unresponsive in his on-post housing and later died. Fort Hood officials said that no foul play was suspected. Sawyer is survived by his wife and young daughter.
*3 deaths w/i the past month at Fort Hood
*6 deaths this year on the base
*8 total deaths stemming from the base, if you include the 2 deployed victims who allegedly died overseas
THESE VICTIMS & THEIR FAMILIES DESERVE JUSTICE pic.twitter.com/9f52EHErCf
— kk (@themagikkword) July 22, 2020
Again, in March 2020, Specialist Freddy Beningo Delacruz, 23, was found dead with two other people. All three deaths are being investigated as homicides.
According to a media release from Fort Hood’s press center, Delacruz entered the Army in November of 2017 as a cavalry scout and has been assigned to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team and 1st Cavalry Division since April 2018.
In May, Pfc. Brandon Scott Rosencrans, 27 was found dead in Harker Heights, Texas. Local police are investigating his death as a murder.
RELEASE OF INFORMATION – 5/19/2020UPDATE: Death & Vehicle Fire Investigation- Harker HeightsThe Harker Heights…
Police officials have not said whether they consider Morta’s death to be suspicious or if it might be connected in any way to the deaths of Guillen or Morales.
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Here is an article from Law Enforcement Today about the tragic death of Vanessa Guillen:
Robinson, who was originally from Illinois, joined the army in October 2018 as a combat engineer. According to army officials, Robinson, 20, died by suicide on Wednesday after fleeing his post at Fort Hood in Texas the day prior:
“Special agents were attempting to locate the junior Soldier from Fort Hood who fled the post late yesterday–while law enforcement agencies attempted to make contact with the suspect, the suspect reportedly displayed a weapon and took his own life.”
According to Fort Hood CID senior special agent Damon Phelps, investigators are still looking into Robinson’s interactions with Guillen. There has been no credible information or reports that Specialist Robinson sexually harassed Specialist Guillen at this time.
During a press conference, Phelps said that the army is aware that Guillen’s family believes that she was sexually harassed, but investigators have found no evidence backing up the claims.
Phelps told reporters:
“There has been no information and we have interviewed hundreds of people–there are no allegations that she has been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed…there is no credible information about that.”
Family members said Guillen had previously complained about being sexually harassed by her sergeant, but had been afraid to report it.
The army opened up an investigation into the allegations in June. According to an army press release, Col. Ralph Overland has appointed a team to conduct the sexual harassment investigation.
A statement quotes Overland saying:
“I take allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and we are conducting a thorough investigation. The lead investigator has been tasked with gathering evidence and ‘thoroughly and impartially’ considering it before presenting findings and recommendations.”
Fort Hoot officials said they were not aware of reports of sexual harassment involving Robinson, but the investigation is ongoing. Robinson has been the main suspect in Guillen’s disappearance.
Attorney Natalie Khawam said the family told her that Guillen had planned to file a harassment complaint against Robinson the day after she was killed and they believe Robinson became enraged when she told him that.
Phelps said investigators were looking into Robinson’s interactions with Guillen. He said investigators had conducted more than 300 hundred interviews in the case and there was “no credible information.”
Early Wednesday, US Marshalls, Killeen police and the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force located Robinson. The authorities confronted him walking along a commercial and residential thoroughfare on the northeast side of the city, a few miles from base.
The Killeen Police Department said in a statement:
“As officers attempted to make contact with the suspect, the suspect displayed a weapon and discharged it toward himself. The suspect succumbed from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
On Wednesday, Guillen’s sister, Mayra said she had met the soldier suspected in the disappearance of her sister:
“When I first went up to that base, that subject, I met him, not knowing that he had something to do with it. I felt something was telling me that he did something and I wasn’t wrong apparently and apparently now he kills himself. Why? I don’t know.”
Mayra’s statement came just hours after investigators discovered on Tuesday the partial remains of a body near the Leon River in rural Bell County, where Killeen is located.
Investigators had returned to an area of interest close to the Leon River, Bell County, Texas for more investigative work. The remains were found in a shallow grave.
At first, authorities said the identity of the remains had not been confirmed. On Thursday, two days after the remains were found, Attorney Khawam told CNN that Fort Hood Pfc. Vanessa Guillen was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in the armory room where she worked and that her body was transported from the military installation by her killer.
Search teams looking for a missing soldier at Fort Hood, Texas have found human remains as they investigate her disappearance.
Vanessa Guillen vanished over 2 months ago. The human remains, which have not yet been identified, were discovered about 30 miles from the Army base. pic.twitter.com/zEsZPdbCbz
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) July 1, 2020
Attorney Khawam also said investigators told the family that Robinson called a woman he was involved with to help him dispose of Guillen’s body after moving it outside the base.
The Texas Rangers also arrested a civilian suspect in connection with Guillen’s disappearance. This suspect has been identified as Cecily Anne Aguilar, the estranged wife of a former soldier from Fort Hood.
She is in Bell County Jail awaiting civilian authorities to press charges. She faces one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence. Aguilar faces up to 20 years in prison with a maximum $250,00 fine, if convicted.
Attorney Khawam said the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division said that Robinson cleaned up the area where Guillen was killed, placed her body in a container and wheeled her out to his car.
After driving to pick up Aguilar, the pair drove to a nearby river and tried to burn Guillen’s body, but later chopped it up with a machete.
Then, they put cement on the body and buried the remains. Investigators were called back to the scene this week when a man working in the area reported a foul odor.
Tim Miller, of Texas Equusearch, who has been assisting in the search for Guillen said:
“It appeared the suspect buried her, put like on her, mixed up concrete, put that over her, put dirt over her, rocks and stuff.”
The remains found in a shallow grave near the Leon River in Bell County have yet to be formally identified by authorities.
Here’s Law Enforcement Today’s most recent previous article on this case.
According to a report by Crime Online, the remains of missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen have been found. They were discovered in a shallow grave by the Leon River in Texas.
Guillen, 20, disappeared on April 22. She was last seen at around 1 p.m. at the parking lot of the Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, in Fort Hood, Texas.
Private 1st Class Vanessa Guillen was reported as last seen at approximately 1:00 p.m. on April 22nd within the parking lot of her Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment on Fort Hood.
MISSING SOLDIER: The family of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen need your help tonight. She was last seen on Wednesday on @forthood. Her keys, ID card and wallet were found after she disappeared. #MissingPerson #Army #FortHood
— Brandon Hamilton (@BrandonKWTX) April 26, 2020
According to the Fort Hood Press, PFC Guillen’s car keys, barracks room key, identification card and wallet were later located inside of the armory room where she’d been working earlier in the day on the 22nd. The Fort Hood Military Police officially issued a BOLO on the missing soldier, giving notice to local law enforcement that are assisting in the search.
Mayra Guillen, the sister of PFC Guillen, took to Facebook to spread awareness of her missing sister. She stated the following on the post:
“My sister….last seen two days ago. No contact with boyfriend, close friends or family. Belongings and CAR are at base too back in fort hood. Something is not right please help me find her. Houston Austin Ft hood/ Killeen areas.”
The soldier’s boyfriend also posted a call online to help locate PFC Guillen, which read:
“Please help me find my girlfriend her name is Vanessa [Guillen]. Height 5’3. She has 3 tattoos on her left arm. Please anything helps.”
Guillen left behind her car keys, barracks room key, identification card, and wallet in the Arms room, where she works. She was also called in on her day off, but it’s unclear who called her in or why.
Guillen’s mother, Gloria Guillen, previously told CrimeOnline in an interview that a sergeant at the base had been sexually harassing her daughter.
“[Guillen] said it was stalking and verbal harassment. He would look at her some type of way that would make any woman feel uncomfortable,” Gloria Guillen, who speaks Spanish, said through her daughter, Mayra Guillen, who translated on her behalf.
At this point, no suspects have been named.
Interestingly, in a separate incident last week, authorities found a different set of remains off of the 3400 block of Florence Road in Killeen. That’s near an area where searchers previously found slain Fort Hood soldier, Gregory Wedel-Morales… but at this point, it’s unclear whether those particular remains are of a human or an animal.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command released a statement Tuesday, following the discovery the remains – which they did not publicly confirm were those of the missing soldier.
“Due to extensive investigative work conducted by Special Agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, agents have returned to an area of interest close to the Leon River, Bell County, Texas for more investigative work in the search for PFC Vanessa Guillen.
After receiving additional information, agents have discovered what has been described as partial human remains after analysis from a forensic anthropologist. Army CID agents are currently on scene with the Texas Rangers, the FBI and Bell County Sheriff’s Department.
No confirmation as to the identity of the remains has been made at this point and we ask for the media and public’s understanding that the identification process can take time.
Due to the ongoing criminal investigation, no further information will be released at this time.”
Just last week, we reported that skeletal remains that were found in a field within Killeen, Texas after a tip came in to Army criminal investigators were confirmed to be the remains of missing Fort Hood soldier Gregory Morales.
— WSB Radio (@wsbradio) June 22, 2020
While an investigation is underway to determine the cause of death, the discovery of Morales’ body has provided closure to the family of the soldier who’d been missing since August of 2019.
On June 19th, officials from Fort Hood were notified about a body present within a field in Killeen. After receiving the tip, Army investigators partnered up with Killeen police and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to investigate the area said to host the remains.
After combing the area, the search team found skeletal remains that were confirmed to be that of Morales’ on June 21st. The soldier was last seen in August of last year driving his vehicle outside of Fort Hood, and was said to be days away from his discharge when he seemingly disappeared.
Officials say that foul play is suspected and that the investigation is currently being treated as a homicide. There is currently a reward of up to $25,000 for anyone with credible information regarding the circumstances of Morales’ death.
Major General Jeffery Broadwater said the following in a statement after the news broke that the remains discovered were Morales’:
“The First Team is saddened by the news of the passing of PV2 Gregory Morales. His life was taken too soon, and we appreciate his service to our nation.”
The soldier was only 24-years-old when he passed away.
The Army is investigating the death of Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales, a Fort Hood solider whose remains were found 10 months after his disappearance.https://t.co/4fMrbLVQVC
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) June 22, 2020
Kim Wedel, the mother of the deceased, stated the following about the discovery:
“I just want to thank whoever came forward with the info. We finally have closure and can clear his name.”
Morales had joined the Army back in June of 2015, with his MOS being a motor transport operator.
During his service, he’d received two Army Achievement Medals, the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Driver and Mechanics Badge and Army Service Ribbon.
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