Here’s What We Know About Eight of the Soldiers Who Have Died This Year at Fort Hood

July 27, 2020 Updated: July 27, 2020

Fort Hood in Texas is no stranger to tragedy.

In 2009 a U.S. Army psychiatrist killed 13 people, an unborn child, and injured 32 others in a shooting rampage. Five years later the U.S. Army post was struck again when a veteran killed three people and injured 16 others before killing himself.

But today the post, about 60 miles from Austin, Texas, is facing another series of tragedies as one service member after another turns up dead.

The most notorious case is that of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, whose remains were discovered a few weeks ago, months after her disappearance. The circumstances surrounding her death prompted the Army to assemble a civilian review of the “command, climate, and culture” at Fort Hood.

Besides Guillen, at least 7 soldiers stationed at Fort Hood have died or been found dead since March, including one who took his life after becoming a suspect in Guillen’s disappearance.

There have been 23 deaths this year among the post’s 36,500 soldiers, Fort Hood officials told CNN in a statement. According to officials, the deaths include seven off-duty accidents; seven suicides; one combat-related death; four homicides, one of which was on the base; two of natural causes; one that was undetermined pending an autopsy; and one drowning.

“Our hearts go out to the families, soldiers, and friends affected by these tragic losses,” Fort Hood officials said.

Here’s what we know about eight of these cases.

Mejhor Morta

Pvt. Mejhor Morta is the most recent soldier stationed at Fort Hood reported to have died.

Fort Hood officials identified Morta, 26, after he was found unresponsive on July 17 near Stillhouse Hollow Lake, about 16 miles from the base, according to a news release from Fort Hood.

Fishermen found his body at the base of a dam, according to the Bell County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating Morta’s death.

A preliminary autopsy showed the cause of death was consistent with a drowning, Major T.J. Cruz of the sheriff’s office said in a statement. A full autopsy has yet to be completed, and the investigation is ongoing, Cruz said.

Morta was from Pensacola, Florida, Fort Hood’s statement said, and joined the Army in September 2019 as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic.

“Private Morta was a great Trooper and this loss is felt by every member within our formation,” said Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong.

Vanessa Guillen

Missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen.
Missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen. (Courtesy of Fort Hood Military Police)

Guillen’s case gained national attention after the 20-year-old vanished in April.

The search ended when her remains were discovered June 30 in a shallow grave, according to family attorney Natalie Khawam. The U.S. Army later positively identified the remains as Guillen.

The small-arms repairer was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in the armory room where she worked, and her body was transported from the installation by her killer, Khawam told CNN, citing details the family learned from Army investigators.

A private first class when she disappeared, Guillen was promoted to specialist effective July 1, based on time in service, according to Fort Hood.

“If this could happen to Vanessa, this can happen to any one of our sisters, daughters, and mothers,” Khawam said in a statement. “There’s no reason why a young beautiful girl who joined the Army, to honorably serve our country, should be in a shallow grave here on our own turf.”

Aaron David Robinson

Officials identified the main suspect in Guillen’s disappearance as 20-year-old Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who killed himself as investigators confronted him, according to U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID).

According to Khawam, Guillen’s family said she planned to file a harassment complaint against Robinson the day after she was killed, and they believe Robinson became enraged when she told him.

Fort Hood officials previously said they were not aware of reports of sexual harassment involving Robinson, but there’s an ongoing investigation that includes allegations of sexual harassment, according to the Army.

Khawam said investigators told the Guillen family Robinson called a woman he was involved with to help him dispose of Guillen’s body after moving it off the post. A woman was later arrested by Texas Rangers earlier this month in connection with Guillen’s disappearance and faces a federal charge of conspiracy to tamper with evidence.

Robinson was a combat engineer assigned to Troop A, Engineer Squadron, according to Army officials, who said he was not part of Guillen’s chain of command.

Gregory Scott Morales

Gregory Scott Morales.
Gregory Scott Morales. (Courtesy of Fort Hood Press Center)

The skeletal remains of Pvt. 2nd Class Gregory Scott Morales were discovered in a field in Killeen, Texas, on June 19—10 months after the 24-year-old vanished—following information received by CID.

Foul play is suspected, according to a statement from Fort Hood. CID is investigating alongside the Killeen Police Department, which declined to comment for this story, citing the ongoing investigation.

Morales was last seen on the night of Aug. 19, 2019, driving his personal vehicle in Killeen, according to the Fort Hood statement. Morales—who was known as Gregory Wedel before he took his wife’s last name—was scheduled to be discharged within a couple days when he vanished, the statement said.

Morales was from Sapulpa, Oklahoma, and joined the Army in June 2015 as a motor transport operator.

“The First Team is saddened by the news of the passing of PV2 Gregory Morales,” Maj. Gen. Jeffery Broadwater, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, said in a statement. “His life was taken too soon, and we appreciate his service to our nation.”

Brandon Scott Rosecrans

Pfc. Brandon Scott Rosecrans was found dead on May 18 in Harker Heights, Texas, according to Fort Hood.

Harker Heights Police spokesman Lawrence Stewart told CNN that Rosecrans’s death is being investigated as a murder after he was found with a gunshot wound. The same day, Stewart said, Rosecrans’s 2016 Jeep Renegade was found burned. Local fire marshals are investigating the burning as arson, Stewart said.

Family members have vowed to get justice for Rosecrans, CNN affiliate KWTX reported.

“When I closed that lid, the last thing I promised my son was if it takes my last breath, I will find out who did this and will make sure they pay,” Thomas Berg Sr. said, according to KWTX.

Rosecrans, a 27-year-old quartermaster and chemical equipment repairer, joined the Army in May 2018.

Freddy Beningo Delacruz Jr.

Spc. Freddy Delacruz Jr., 23, died March 14, in Killeen, according to Fort Hood.

The Killeen Police Department, which is investigating Delacruz’s death alongside CID, said Delacruz was found dead with two others at an apartment complex. All three suffered gunshot wounds and the case is being treated as a triple homicide.

The 23-year-old was from Vidalia, Georgia. He joined the Army in November 2017 as a cavalry scout, Fort Hood’s statement said.

In the March statement, Lt. Col. Steven E. Jackowski called Delacruz “an outstanding Trooper.”

“Each of us in the Battalion are grateful for having known him and we collectively grieve his loss,” he said.

Christopher Wayne Sawyer

Spc. Christopher Wayne Sawyer, 29, was found unresponsive on March 5 in his residence on Fort Hood, according to a statement released by the base.

The statement said CID officials, who were investigating the death, did not suspect foul play but had not ruled it out.

Sawyer, of Longview, Washington, joined the Army in October 2017, the statement said. He was a wheeled vehicle mechanic.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of any member of our IRONHORSE team and we will mourn this loss as an organization,” said Col. Michael Schoenfeldt.

Shelby Tyler Jones

Shelby Tyler Jones.
Shelby Tyler Jones. (Courtesy of Fort Hood Press Center)

Spc. Shelby Tyler Jones died March 1 after he suffered an apparent gunshot wound in south Killeen, according to Fort Hood.

The 20-year-old’s death was under investigation by the Killeen Police Department, which said in a news release that investigators believe Jones was shot at a club before he was found at a convenience store.

On Friday the police department told CNN in a brief statement that the case was presented to a grand jury on June 11, and that the district attorney declined to prosecute.

“The case has been exceptionally cleared,” the police said.

Jones, a native of Jena, Louisiana, joined the Army in May 2017 as a cavalry scout, Fort Hood’s statement said.

A statement from Col. Ralph Overland said Jones was a highly valued member of his team.

“He was a dedicated professional who truly loved his family and the Army,” Overland said.

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