Former Fort Bliss soldier sentenced to 85 years in prison in 2018 fatal shooting
By AARON MARTINEZ | The El Paso Times | Published: April 19, 2019
EL PASO, Texas (Tribune News Service) — A former Fort Bliss soldier convicted of murder was sentenced to more than eight decades in prison.
Cornelius Dewayne Harrison Jr., 22, was sentenced to 85 years in prison Tuesday by a jury in the fatal shooting of Frank Alexander Hernandez Jr. He was in the Army at the time of the crime.
Harrison was convicted of murder by the same jury Monday. The trial was held in the 41st District Court with Judge Annabell Perez presiding.
The body of Hernandez, 22, was found by a passerby Jan. 3, 2018, on a desert road in the 4400 block of Stagecoach Drive near Hueco Tanks, east of El Paso.
Harrison was accused of shooting Hernandez several times in front of several witnesses in the desert area because he believed Hernandez was stealing from him, according to court documents.
Court documents do not state what Harrison was accusing Hernandez of stealing.
Harrison, Hernandez and a group of other people went to Harrison's home at the Butterfield Trail Apartments on the 10300 block of Gateway North Boulevard in the Northeast and then went to Red Sands to shoot Harrison’s rifle, according to a complaint affidavit.
The group was unable to find Red Sands, so they turned on Stagecoach Road and parked in a desolate area to shoot.
As the group was shooting, Harrison accused Hernandez of stealing from him, the affidavit states.
He then allegedly told Hernandez to get on his knees, but before Hernandez could respond, Harrison shot him three times, according to the affidavit.
As Hernandez lay on the ground, Harrison stood over him and fired one shot at his head, the affidavit states.
The witnesses were than told by Harrison to clean the crime scene by picking up shell casings and cigarette butts, the affidavit states.
Some of the witnesses later told El Paso County Sheriff’s Office investigators that they obeyed Harrison because they were afraid of him, the affidavit states.
Once the group left the desert area and returned to Harrison’s apartment, Harrison allegedly pointed the rifle at the head of one of the witnesses because he was angry the witness had left a cigarette behind at the scene of the shooting.
Investigators found two spent shell casings and two cigarette butts at the scene, according to court documents.
The day after the shooting, one of the witnesses went to law enforcement and reported the slaying.
When questioned by investigators, Harrison admitted that his rifle was used in the shooting but claimed another man at the scene shot Hernandez, the complaint states.
Harrison, who claimed to have post-traumatic stress disorder and said that he had previously attempted suicide, told deputies that he would kill himself before going to jail, the complaint states.
Deputies said they found Harrison’s rifle, along with Hernandez's cellphone and wallet, at Harrison's apartment.
Harrison joined the Army in June 2016 and was stationed at Fort Bliss, according to post officials. He was a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist assigned to the 44th Chemical Company, 22nd Chemical Battalion.
Two witnesses to the shooting also were charged in connection with Hernandez’s death.
Harrison’s roommate, Kyle Derrick Jones, was arrested on one count each of tampering with evidence and failure to report a felony involving a death.
According to an indictment, Jones allegedly hid Hernandez's wallet, cellphone, shoes and a bullet casing in an effort to cover up the fatal shooting.
The charge against Jones over the failure to report the shooting was dismissed earlier this year, court records show.
He still faces a charge of tampering with evidence and is scheduled to go to trial May 13.
Torius Shawn Taft also faces a charge of tampering with evidence and is set to go to trial Sept. 23, court records show.