Murder of Vanessa Guillén

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Murder of Vanessa Guillén
Bell FortHood.svg
Fort Hood census-designated place
LocationFort Hood, Texas, U.S.
DateApril 22, 2020 (murder of Guillén)
July 1, 2020 (suicide of Robinson)
Attack type
Murder by bludgeoning, murder-suicide
WeaponHammer
Deaths2 (including the perpetrator)
VictimVanessa Guillén
PerpetratorAaron David Robinson
MotiveCover-up of Aguilar's adulterous relationship with Robinson
AccusedCecily Anne Aguilar
ChargesRobinson
None; died before being apprehended

Aguilar

The murder of Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year-old United States Army soldier, took place inside an armory at Fort Hood, Texas, on April 22, 2020, when she was bludgeoned to death by another soldier, Aaron David Robinson.[2] Guillén had been missing for over two months when some of her dismembered remains were found buried along the Leon River on June 30.[3] Upon hearing about the discovery, Robinson fled Fort Hood and fatally shot himself when law enforcement attempted to apprehend him in nearby Killeen, Texas.[3][4][5]

Cecily Aguilar, a local woman identified by authorities as Robinson's girlfriend, was taken into custody and is alleged to have assisted him in dismembering and burying Guillén's body. On July 2, 2020, Aguilar was charged with one federal count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence.[3] On July 13, 2021, she was indicted on eleven counts by a federal grand jury.[6] On November 29, 2022 Aguilar plead guilty to accessory to murder after the fact and three counts of making a false statement.[7]

People involved[edit]

Vanessa Guillén in 2018
  • Vanessa Guillén, 20, was from Houston, Texas. She was born in Ben Taub Hospital in Houston on September 30, 1999, to parents Rogelio and Gloria Guillén, who originated from Zacatecas State in Mexico. She had five siblings. Guillén attended Hartman Middle School and,[8] according to her family, graduated from César E. Chávez High School in 2018 in the top 15% of her class. She played soccer, loved to jog, and enjoyed sports and learning.[9] Guillén joined the United States Army in June 2018 and trained as a 91F, Small Arms and Artillery Repairer.[10] Guillén was posthumously advanced from Private First Class to the rank of Specialist on July 1, 2020.[11]
  • Aaron David Robinson, 20, was from Calumet City, Illinois, a southern suburb of Chicago.[12][2] Robinson joined the United States Army in October 2017 and trained as a 12B, Combat Engineer. He held the rank of E4 Specialist at the time of his death.[12]
  • Cecily Anne Aguilar, 22, described by authorities as the girlfriend of Robinson and the estranged wife of another soldier.[3]

Investigation[edit]

Guillén was stationed at Fort Hood, a U.S. Army installation in Bell County, Texas, which is approximately 340 square miles (880 km2) in size and home to III Corps and the First Cavalry Division. She was last seen around 1:00 p.m. on April 22, 2020, in the parking lot of her unit, the Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment (3CR).[9] Her car keys, identification card, bank card, and barracks key were found inside the armory where she worked.[3] Guillén's family felt she disappeared under suspicious circumstances.[13] The case was investigated under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with local law enforcement agencies in Bell County, Killeen, and Belton; the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; the United States Marshals Service; and the Texas Ranger Division in support.[14] Multiple Fort Hood units, including 3CR, began searching the area within two weeks of her disappearance.

Before Guillén went missing, she had told her family that she was being sexually harassed by an unnamed sergeant at Fort Hood,[15] and that complaints by other female soldiers made against the sergeant had been dismissed.[13] Guillén's mother advised her to report the matter, but she responded that "she could put a stop to it herself"[16] out of fear that her mother would be harmed for making a report.[9] In early June, Guillén's mother told reporters she did not trust the Army's handling of the investigation and her attorney, Natalie Khawam,[17] said she believed the family was "being kept in the dark"[16] because few details had been released regarding the disappearance.[18] On June 13, 2020, hundreds of people assembled at the gates of Fort Hood to protest what organizers felt was a lack of information on the case.[18] CID reported that they found no evidence that Guillén was assaulted, but said investigators believed foul play was involved in her disappearance.[15][16][19]

A United States House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel hearing, chaired by Jackie Speier, about the killing of Guillén in July 2020.

On June 17, the League of United Latin American Citizens added a $25,000 reward to the existing $25,000 reward announced by the Army for finding Guillén.[15] On June 23, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, in whose district Guillén's family resides, met with Fort Hood officials to discuss the ongoing search.[20] The authorities said that more than 300 interviews and over 10,000 hours were spent investigating Guillén's disappearance.[21] On July 27, 2020, Guillén's mother, who had previously been detained for illegal immigration, was granted parole in place by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the assistance of Garcia and immigration attorney Luis Gomez Alfaro.[22]

Discovery of remains[edit]

On June 30, 2020, Army investigators were called in when contractors discovered partial human remains along the Leon River in Belton.[5][23] The area had previously been searched by Texas Rangers, detectives, and cadaver dogs on June 20 after a burn mound was discovered nearby.[5] Investigators theorized that the remains, previously buried under concrete, had been dug up by wildlife.[5] Tim Miller, Director of Texas EquuSearch, stated that it was the most sophisticated burial site he had ever seen.[5]

Later that evening, at around 8:30 p.m., authorities re-interviewed Cecily Anne Aguilar, a local woman who was the estranged wife of a soldier at Fort Hood. Aguilar was reported to be the girlfriend of Aaron David Robinson, a specialist ranked enlisted soldier who was one of the last known people to see Guillén on the day of her disappearance and who had previously been interviewed by investigators.[2][23] Aguilar told police that Robinson had confessed to her that he had killed a female soldier at Fort Hood. At the request of law enforcement, Aguilar placed a controlled telephone call to Robinson, who said, "Baby, they found pieces", and texted Robinson multiple news articles, to which he never denied anything in response.[23] According to a criminal complaint filed in the Western District Court of Texas, Aguilar allegedly helped Robinson dismember and dispose of Guillén's body on April 22, 2020, after Robinson told her he had bludgeoned Guillén to death with a hammer inside the armory.[3]

Arrests[edit]

On the evening of June 30, Robinson escaped the custody of an unarmed guard from his unit and fled Fort Hood after hearing the news of the discovery of remains. He had been detained by his unit at the request of a CID agent under the pretense of violating COVID-19 quarantine rules.[24][25] In the early hours of July 1, Killeen police located and attempted to make contact with Robinson, who produced a handgun and killed himself before he could be taken into custody.[2]

Aguilar was arrested by Texas Rangers and held at the Bell County Jail. On July 2, Bell County officials stated Aguilar would be transferred to federal custody due to being charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence by the United States Attorney's Office Western District of Texas.[26][3] Assistant United States Attorneys Mark Frazier and Greg Gloff are prosecuting the case on behalf of the federal government.[14]

Motive[edit]

On May 24, 2022 the Texas Department of Public Safety released a report stating that "Aguilar later explained why Robinson killed Guillen, saying Guillen saw Robinson's cellphone lock screen, which contained a picture of Aguilar. (Robinson) told her he was worried about getting in trouble for violating the Army's fraternization rules since Aguilar was still married to another soldier and he hit Guillen in the head with a hammer."[27]

Timeline[edit]

  • April 22, 2020: According to law enforcement, Guillén is murdered with a hammer inside an armory by Robinson, who then uses a trunk to remove her body from Fort Hood and gets help from Aguilar in dismembering the remains before burying them along the Leon River.[2]
  • April 23: CID was notified by a commissioned officer in the 3CR Provost Marshal that then-PFC Guillén was reported missing.
  • April 24: CID issues a missing soldier letter for Guillen.[28] Fort Hood Military Police issue a Be on the Lookout (BOLO) advisory to surrounding law enforcement agencies. Military personnel along with civilian and military police began a search.
  • April 26: According to law enforcement tracking of cellphone data, Robinson and Aguilar return to the Leon River site and further break down Guillén's remains.
  • April 28: CID interviews Robinson for the first time.
  • April 30: Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy makes the following statement in a COVID-19 press briefing: "I'd like to start out this morning by talking about a missing soldier, Private First Class Vanessa Guillen, in hopes of increasing the public's awareness and assistance in finding her. Private First Class Guillen went missing on April 22 from Fort Hood, Texas. In concert with local law enforcement efforts, the Army will continue aggressively searching for her. Our hearts go out to her family, and we will not stop looking for her until we find her."[29]
  • May 18: Two witnesses are interviewed who observed Robinson struggling with a "tough box" outside of the armory.
  • May 19: Robinson consents to a search of his cell phone by law enforcement using a Universal Forensic Extraction Device product.
  • June 19: Aguilar is interviewed for the first time.
  • June 21: Cell phone data from both Robinson and Aguilar lead law enforcement officials to an area near the Leon River. Law enforcement officials locate the burned lid of a Pelican transport case, but fail to find a body.
Jackie Speier and other Members of Congress calling for justice for Vanessa Guillén in July 2020.
  • June 30: At about 1:00 p.m., contractors working on a fence near the Leon River discover partial human remains (that would later be confirmed to be Guillen) and notify law enforcement. CID and partner agencies discover human remains. At about 8:30 p.m., Aguilar was interviewed again and told law enforcement officials about the killing. Robinson fled Fort Hood.
  • July 1: In the early hours, shortly after midnight Robinson killed himself when approached by law enforcement in Killeen, Texas.
  • July 2: FBI formally submits a criminal complaint for Aguilar. Fort Hood and CID hold a press briefing.
  • July 5: Remains are confirmed to be Vanessa Guillén.[25]
  • July 10: U.S. Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy announced that he would order a "full independent review" of the case.
  • July 13: Cecily Aguilar is indicted on 11 counts relating to the death of Vanessa Guillen by a federal grand jury.[30]
  • July 30: Vanessa Guillen's family meets with President Donald Trump who emphasized to the family that the case would be fully and independently reviewed.[31]
  • December 8: Following the independent review, McCarthy announced in a Pentagon press briefing, that 14 "senior officers" from corps to squad level were disciplined for "leadership failures".[32]
  • November 29, 2022: Cecily Aguilar, 24, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Waco, Texas, to one count of accessory to murder after the fact and three counts of making a false statement, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.[33]

Memorials[edit]

A mural in honor of Guillén was created in her hometown of Houston by a local artist.[34] The mural portrays her with the flags of both the United States and Mexico, the latter due to her Mexican American ethnicity.[35] Another mural is dedicated to her at Taqueria del Sol in the Park Place neighborhood.[36] Multiple people also wrote corridos (songs) about her.[8]

On July 6, 2020, at city hall in Richmond, California, a memorial of candles along with tea lights spelling out “Vanessa” were displayed in front of a makeshift altar. Hundreds of people gathered to honour Guillén and other victims of sexual violence and mistreatment within the military.[37]

On April 19, 2021, Lieutenant General Robert P. White, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood unveiled that one out of the 27 gates that grant entry to Fort Hood will be renamed "The Vanessa Guillén Gate" with a plaque in her honor. The gate is also the main entry point to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, where Guillén worked in an arms room as a small arms repairer.[38][39]

Later developments[edit]

President Donald Trump meets with the family of Vanessa Guillén in the Oval Office on July 30, 2020.

Guillén's family called for justice and improvement of the way claims of sexual harassment are handled by the military.[40] Guillén's mother stated publicly that she had spoken to witnesses who heard two shots at the moment of Robinson's death, and stated her belief that Robinson was executed by authorities as part of a coverup involving senior members of the military.[41]

On July 10, 2020, the Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy announced that he would order a "full independent review" of Guillén's case.[42]

On July 30, 2020, Guillen's family met with President Donald Trump regarding her murder.[43]

On December 8, 2020, McCarthy announced the results of the investigation, disciplining 14 U.S. commanders and other leaders at Fort Hood, citing multiple "leadership failures".[44] The investigation found that there was a "permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment at Fort Hood."[45] Among those disciplined by McCarthy were Major General Scott L. Efflandt, Colonel Ralph Overland and Command Sergeant Major Bradley Knapp. The Army suspended Major General Jeffery Broadwater and Command Sergeant Major Thomas C. Kenny, pending the outcome of a new investigation into the 1st Cavalry Division's command climate and program for preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault. Disciplinary measures were also taken against soldiers and leaders assigned below brigade level, however the Army does not, as a matter of policy, "...release the names of the battalion level and below commanders and leaders who received administrative action."[46]

During the December 8 Pentagon press conference McCarthy said that Guillén's murder "shocked our conscience and brought attention to deeper problems" at Fort Hood and across the Army more widely. He said it "forced us to take a critical look at our systems, our policies, and ourselves."[47]

Broadwater did not receive any disciplinary action following an investigation of the 1st Cavalry Division's command climate and turned command of the Division over to Major General John B. Richardson in July 2021. Broadwater was subsequently assigned as deputy commander of V Corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky.[48]

On January 26, 2022, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order that established sexual harassment as a specific offense under the UCMJ. [49]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Grand jury indicts Cecily Aguilar on 11 counts in Vanessa Guillen murder trial". July 14, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Garcia, John (July 4, 2020). "Vanessa Guillen bludgeoned to death by fellow soldier, attorney says; suspect ID'd as Calumet City man". ABC 7 Chicago. Archived from the original on June 13, 2022. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Rempfer, Kyle (July 3, 2020). "Civilian charged in plot to dismember and hide remains of murdered Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen". Army Times. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  4. ^ Jones, Kay (July 3, 2020). "Pfc. Vanessa Guillen bludgeoned to death on Army base, family attorney says". Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e Horton, Alex; Hernández, Arelis R. (July 1, 2020). "Remains of missing soldier Vanessa Guillén likely found, family says, as suspect kills himself". Washington Post. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  6. ^ "Cecily Aguilar indicted on 11 counts for involvement in Vanessa Guillen's death". July 14, 2021.
  7. ^ "Cecily Aguilar pleads guilty to felony charges for involvement in Vanessa Guillen's murder".
  8. ^ a b Banks, Gabrielle; Tallet, Olivia P.; Dellinger, Hannah (July 26, 2020). "Portrait of a fallen soldier". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Egan, Leigh (June 17, 2020). "'How can you not have these answers?': Reward reaches $55K as desperate search for missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen continues". CrimeOnline.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Rempfer, Kyle (July 2, 2020). "Missing Fort Hood soldier was killed in armory, then hacked to pieces, family's attorney says". Army Times. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  11. ^ "Army to investigate Fort Hood SHARP program after disappearance of PFC Vanessa Guillen". Connecting Vets. July 1, 2020. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Calumet City Soldier Aaron David Robinson Was Main Suspect In Murder Of Fellow Soldier Vanessa Guillen". 2 CBS Chicago. July 2, 2020. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  13. ^ a b McCarthy, Tyler (June 15, 2020). "Salma Hayek uses social media to find missing US Army soldier Vanessa !!!!Guillen". Fox News.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ a b "Killeen Woman Faces Federal Charge in Connection with the Disappearance of U.S. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen". justice.gov. July 2, 2020. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  15. ^ a b c Lee, Alicia (June 17, 2020). "Reward for missing soldier Vanessa Guillen grows to over $50,000 after Latino group and rapper add to it". CNN.
  16. ^ a b c Brito, Christopher (June 17, 2020). "Reward for missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen doubles to $50,000". CBS News.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
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  18. ^ a b Allen, Jack (June 13, 2020). "Hundreds rally to seek answers for missing soldier Pfc. Vanessa Guillen". 25 ABC.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
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  20. ^ "Vanessa Guillen search: Lawmaker suspects foul play in the disappearance of Texas soldier". 6 ABC Action News. June 23, 2020. Retrieved June 23, 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ "Fort Hood says they have found no connection with sexual harassment and Guillen's disappearance". KXXV 25 ABC News. July 2, 2020. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  22. ^ "Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia hosts virtual update on Vanessa Guillén case". kcentv.com. July 31, 2020. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  23. ^ a b c Bonvillian, Crystal. "She 'never made it out of the Army alive': Affidavit details killing of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen". Fox23 News. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  24. ^ Philipps, Dave (April 30, 2021) Military Missteps Allowed Soldier Accused of Murder to Flee, Report Says. New York Times.
  25. ^ a b Horton, Alex (July 5, 2020). "Remains of missing soldier Vanessa Guillén identified by Army, family says". Washington Post. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  26. ^ "Vanessa Guillen killed with hammer and her body mutilated, affidavit says". KCEN-TV. July 2, 2020. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  27. ^ "New court documents in Vanessa Guillen's case reveal possible motive for murder". May 25, 2022.
  28. ^ "Public's Help Sought in Locating Fort Hood Soldier" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. ^ "Army Senior Leaders Update Reporters on U.S. Army Response to COVID-19". U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
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  31. ^ https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/30/politics/vanessa-guillen-family-donald-trump/index.htmlM[dead link]
  32. ^ Cohen, Zachary; Browne, Ryan (December 8, 2020). "Army punishes 14 senior officers after murder and other deaths at Fort Hood". CNN. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  33. ^ "Texas woman pleads guilty to role in Vanessa Guillen's death". AP NEWS. November 30, 2022. Retrieved November 30, 2022.
  34. ^ Parker, T.J. (July 2, 2020). "Houston artists pay tribute to Vanessa Guillen". ABC Eyewitness News. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  35. ^ Okolie, Stefania (July 7, 2020). "New mural pays tribute to Vanessa Guillen in her neighborhood". KTRK-TV. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  36. ^ "Mayor Turner honors Vanessa Guillen with visit to mural". KTRK-TV. July 4, 2020. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  37. ^ Clayton, Abené (July 18, 2020). "'It's like she's my daughter': After Vanessa Guillén's killing, a California city reckons with the military". the Guardian. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  38. ^ Cynthia Silva (April 19, 2021). "Fort Hood unveils gate and plaque honoring Vanessa Guillén". nbcnews.com. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  39. ^ Rose L. Thayer (April 19, 2021). "Fort Hood names gate after slain Spc. Vanessa Guillen". strips.com. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  40. ^ "Proposed Vanessa Guillén law would transform military's sexual misconduct inquiries". washingtonpost.com. September 16, 2020. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  41. ^ Guillen, Gloria (March 10, 2021). ""Interview with Gloria Guillen"". KPFA FM Free Speech Radio. Retrieved March 10, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
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  43. ^ "Trump meets with family of Vanessa Guillen and pledges to help". CNN. July 30, 2020.
  44. ^ "Fort Hood: Soldiers fired and suspended after Vanessa Guillen probe". BBC News. December 8, 2020.
  45. ^ Acevedo, Nicole; Kube, Courtney (December 8, 2020). "14 Fort Hood leaders disciplined as probe finds 'permissive environment for sexual assault' at the Army base". NBC News. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  46. ^ "Secretary McCarthy holds Fort Hood Leaders Accountable, Announces New Investigations". Army.mil. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  47. ^ Kates, Graham. "14 fired or suspended following Fort Hood investigation into Vanessa Guillén's death". CBS News. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  48. ^ Rose L. Thayer (July 21, 2021). "New general takes command of Fort Hood's 1st Cavalry Division after investigation clears former commander of wrongdoing". Stars and Stripes.
  49. ^ "Executive Order, 2022 Amendments to the Manual for Courts-Martial". January 26, 2022.

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