BELTON, Texas — The body of a Fort Hood soldier was found Friday near a Texas lake, making him the third soldier whose remains have been found in the community around the base in the past month.
PVT Mejhor Morta, 26, was found dead near Stillhouse Hollow Lake, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir located 5 miles southwest of Belton. The reservoir is about 15 miles from the Army base.
KVUE in Austin reported that authorities believe Morta drowned in the lake. His body was found at the base of the dam, according to a news release from the Bell County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the case.
Morta’s preliminary autopsy, ordered by Justice of the Peace Garland Potvin, indicated his death was consistent with drowning. A full autopsy will be conducted by the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office, the news station reported.
Morta, a native of Pensacola, Florida, has been an Army private since September, when he entered as a Bradley fighting vehicle mechanic. According to Fort Hood officials, he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
“The Black Knight family is truly heartbroken by the tragic loss of Pvt. Mejhor Morta,” Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, said in a news release. “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.
“Pvt. Morta was a great trooper and this loss is felt by every member within our formation.”
Morta’s death comes on the heels of two high-profile homicides of soldiers stationed at Fort Hood. The dismembered body of SPC Vanessa Guillen, who vanished from the base April 22, was found June 30 encased in concrete and buried in multiple shallow graves next to the Leon River in Belton, about 15 miles from where Morta was found Friday.
Guillen’s body was found after the remains of PV2 Gregory Wedel Morales were located in a field in Killeen, just 4 miles from the base. Morales had been missing since August 2019.
The cause of Morta’s death has not been made public. His death is being investigated by detectives with the Bell County Sheriff’s Department, Army officials said.
Army Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, investigators, along with her fellow soldiers and agents from multiple law enforcement agencies, spent weeks searching for Guillen, a 20-year-old native of Houston. She was last seen alive April 22 in the armory, where she worked as a small arms and artillery repairer for the 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
According to a federal affidavit in the Guillen case, the soldier left the arms room in which she was working for a separate room, located in the building next door, so she could confirm serial numbers for weapons and equipment on which she was working.
The soldier in charge of that second arms room was SPC Aaron David Robinson, 20, who authorities allege bludgeoned Guillen to death with a hammer. He then placed her body inside a heavy-duty Pelican case with wheels and placed her body in his vehicle.
Robinson was seen struggling to get the heavy case into his vehicle that evening, the affidavit says. He then drove Guillen’s body to the spot along the Leon River, where his married girlfriend, who was estranged from her soldier husband, helped him dispose of Guillen’s remains.
Robinson and Cecily Anne Aguilar, 22, of Killeen, used a machete and an ax or hatchet to cut Guillen’s body into pieces and tried to burn them, the affidavit says.
“They removed the limbs and the head from the body,” according to the court document. “SPC Robinson and Aguilar attempted to burn the body; however, the body would not burn completely. They placed the dead female in three separate holes and covered up the remains.”
They returned to the site a few days later to break down the body some more, try again to burn the pieces and encase them in concrete, the affidavit states. They then reburied the remains and went home to burn their clothes.
Robinson fled his barracks room, where he had been confined, when he learned July 1 that the remains had been found, CID officials said. Aguilar, who was already in custody, helped investigators find her boyfriend, who was on foot in a neighborhood in nearby Killeen.
As investigators approached him, Robinson fatally shot himself, authorities said.
Aguilar, who has been charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence and two counts of tampering with evidence, was indicted on the charges last week. She pleaded not guilty on all charges.
Though no arrests have been made, Morales’ death is also being investigated as a homicide. The 23-year-old Oklahoma native was last seen alive the night of Aug. 19, 2019, when he went out with friends. He was last heard from at all the following day.
Morales’ vehicle, a black 2018 Kia Rio, was found abandoned in January, his mother, Kim Wedel, told Army Times earlier this month. Wedel and her family have accused Army officials of keeping them in the dark about developments in her son’s disappearance and failing to properly search for him after he vanished.
Morales, who was days away from being discharged from service, was instead labeled absent without official leave, or AWOL. His name eventually went onto a list of Army deserters.
Fort Hood officials offered a $25,000 reward for information in Morales’ case June 17, days after announcing the same reward for information leading to Guillen.
CID investigators received the tip leading them to Morales’ skeletal remains two days later, on June 19. Though a cause of death has not been made public, Wedel told Army Times she was told her son may have been shot in the face.
Anyone with information on Morales’ death can contact Army CID agents at 254-287-2722 or the Military Police Desk at 254-288-1170. They can also anonymously submit information at https://www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html.
Cox Media Group