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Body of Fort Hood soldier found dead but official cause still under probe

    FORT HOOD, Texas — The body of a soldier who was missing for four days after a solo navigation exercise was found in a brushy area within the Army post’s training area, but exactly how he died is still under investigation, officials said Wednesday.
    The body of Sgt. Lawrence G. Sprader, 25, was found Tuesday night by searchers on foot, said Eddy Howton, Fort Hood’s director of emergency services. It was sent to Dallas for an autopsy.
    ‘‘We are deeply saddened for his family,’’ Howton said. The family did not attend a briefing Wednesday.
    Officials do not suspect foul play, said Lt. Col. Carter Oates, commander of the 11th MP Battalion, Criminal Investigations Division, where Sprader was assigned.
    Sprader disappeared Friday during the exercise testing basic map-reading and navigation skills in a rugged exercise area at the sprawling central Texas post.
    Overall, Howton said, 3,000 soldiers and searchers from 14 outside agencies covered about 20,000 acres, an effort that involved people on foot, horseback, ATVs, helicopters and a heat-detecting plane.
    Sprader’s body was found near plenty of drinking water from creeks and other sources, said Robert Volk, the chief game warden at Fort Hood, who helped in the search. He said there are predators such as poisonous snakes and mountain lions on the post.
    Officials declined to answer questions about whether there were signs of distress that might indicate how Sprader died, saying all that is under investigation. Howton said he did not know if searchers found anything that would indicate how long Sprader had been dead.
    When commanders reached Sprader on his phone late Friday — the last time anyone spoke to him — he did not indicate he was ill or distressed. But searchers were worried he may have succumbed to the 90-plus degree heat. Sprader was equipped with two canteens, a water backpack and two Meals Ready To Eat.
    Sprader was one of nearly 320 noncommissioned officers taking part in a two-week leadership course.
    Nine other soldiers got lost during the three-hour exercise, but all except Sprader got back to the rally point safely by following the sound of a siren that blasts when time is up, said Col. Diane Battaglia, a III Corps spokeswoman at Fort Hood.
    Post officials said no other soldier had ever been lost on the heavily used range long enough to prompt such a huge search.
    Sprader had returned from an Iraq deployment in September and worked in the criminal investigation division of Fort Hood. The Prince George, Va., soldier had no orders for redeployment to the war zone.

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