WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) — Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are calling for a Senate hearing on the “series of tragic deaths of soldiers” from Fort Hood in Texas. They and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas wrote a letter to the Armed Services Committee, seeking to make sure that Congress is “holding the Army accountable.”

Sgt. Elder Fernandes, of Brockton, disappeared from the base in August and was later found dead. Investigators do not suspect foul play, but the family says the 23-year-old had earlier reported being sexually assaulted. Back in April, 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillen was bludgeoned to death by a fellow soldier at the base, according to a federal complaint.

The senators want a public hearing with Army leadership and investigators on “command climate and culture” at the base.

“As parents and United States Senators, we are heartbroken by the deaths of SGT Fernandes, SPC Guillén, and the other U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, and we are determined to seek justice and answers for their families and to ensure the Army is implementing necessary reforms at Fort Hood, and that Congress is holding the Army accountable,” the letter from Markey, Warren and Cornyn states.

Read the full letter here.

U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said they had seen numbers from a recent survey of 53 soldiers from Fort Hood and that 18 of them had reported some type of harassment or assault. He said he these numbers were presented to Congress and are part of a growing trend of rising violence at the base which Army officials began to notice this year.

“In the late spring, we started to see the number trending higher, right around the time of Vanessa Guillen’s murder,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said in August that Fort Hood has among the highest rates of murder, sexual assault and harassment in the Army but did not provide specific statistics on it or other bases.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

 

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