Killing of Vanessa Guillén
|Location||Fort Hood, Texas|
|Date||April 22, 2020|
|Perpetrator||Aaron David and Cecily Anne Aguilar Robinson|
Vanessa Guillén was a 20-year-old U.S. Army soldier who was murdered on April 22, 2020, inside a Fort Hood, Texas, armory by another enlisted soldier, Aaron David Robinson, a 20-year-old from Calumet City, Illinois. Guillén had been missing since April 22 when some of her dismembered remains were found buried along the Leon River on June 30.
Upon hearing about the discovery of Guillén's remains, Robinson fled Fort Hood, and fatally shot himself when law enforcement attempted to apprehend him in Killeen, Texas, shortly after midnight. Cecily Aguilar, a local woman identified by authorities as Robinson's girlfriend, was taken into custody and is alleged to have assisted Robinson in destroying and burying Guillén's body. On July 2, 2020, she was charged with one federal count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence. On July 13, 2021, she was indicted on 11 counts by a federal grand jury.
|Born||September 30, 1999|
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Died||April 22, 2020 (aged 20)|
Fort Hood, Texas, U.S.
|Branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||2018–2020|
|Unit||Regimental Engineer Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment|
|Alma mater||Hartman Middle School, César E. Chávez High School|
- 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. She attended Hartman Middle School and, according to her family, graduated from César E. Chávez High School in 2018 in the top 15% of her class, played soccer, loved to jog, and enjoyed sports and learning. She joined the Army in June 2018 and trained as a 91F, Small Arms and Artillery Repairer. Guillén was posthumously advanced from Private First Class to the rank of Specialist on July 1, 2020.
- Aaron David Robinson, 20, was from Calumet City, a southern suburb of Chicago, Illinois. Robinson joined the Army in October 2017 and trained as a 12B, Combat Engineer. He held the rank of Specialist at the time of his death.
- Cecily Anne Aguilar, 22, described by authorities as the girlfriend of Aaron Robinson and estranged wife of another soldier.
Guillén 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). Guillen's car keys, identification card, bank card, and barracks key were found inside the armory where she worked. Her family felt Guillén disappeared under suspicious circumstances. The case was investigated under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with Bell County Sheriff's Office, Killeen Police Department, Belton Police Department, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the United States Marshal Service, and the Texas Rangers in support. Multiple Fort Hood units, including 3CR, began searching within two weeks of her disappearance. Fort Hood is a U.S. Army post approximately 340 square miles [880 km2] in size and home to III Corps and the First Cavalry Division.
Before Guillén went missing, she had told her family that she was being sexually harassed by an unnamed sergeant at Fort Hood, and that complaints by other female soldiers made against him had been dismissed. Her mother advised her to report him, but Guillén responded that "she could put a stop to it herself" out of fear that her mother would be harmed for making a report. In early June, her mother told reporters she did not trust the U.S. Army's handling of the investigation, and her attorney, Natalie Khawam, said she believed the family was "being kept in the dark" because few details had been released regarding Guillén's disappearance. 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. CID reported that they found no evidence that Guillén was assaulted, but said investigators believed foul play was involved in her disappearance.
On June 17, the League of United Latin American Citizens added a $25,000 reward to the existing $25,000 reward announced by the U.S. Army for finding Guillén. On June 23, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, in whose district the Guillén family resides, met with Fort Hood officials to discuss the ongoing search for Guillén. The authorities said that more than 300 interviews and over 10,000 hours were spent investigating Gullién's disappearance. On July 27, 2020, Gloria Guillen, mother of Vanessa Guillen, was granted parole in place by DHS, through the assistance of Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia and immigration attorney Luis Gomez Alfaro.
Discovery of remains
On June 30, 2020, Army Investigators were called when contractors discovered partial human remains along the Leon River, in Belton. The area had previously been searched by Texas Rangers, detectives, and cadaver dogs on June 20 after a burn mound was discovered nearby. Investigators theorized that the remains, previously buried under concrete, had been dug up by wildlife. Tim Miller, Director of Texas EquuSearch, stated that it was the most sophisticated burial site he had ever seen.
Later that evening around 8:30pm, authorities re-interviewed Cecily Anne Aguilar, a local area woman who was the estranged wife of a soldier at Fort Hood. Aguilar was reported to be the girlfriend of Aaron David Robinson, a junior enlisted soldier. Robinson was one of the last known people to see Guillén on the day of her disappearance and had previously been interviewed by authorities in the case, where he'd stated their contact that day was about equipment she was working on. Aguilar told police that Robinson told her about killing 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 Aguilar multiple news articles, to which he never denied anything in response. 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 in which he worked.
On the evening of June 30, Robinson escaped the custody of an unarmed guard from his unit and fled the base after hearing the news of the discovery of remains. Robinson had been detained by his unit at the request of an Army Criminal Investigation Command agent under the pretense of violating COVID-19 pandemic quarantine rules. In the early hours of July 1, 2020, Killeen police located and attempted to make contact with Robinson, who produced a handgun and killed himself before he could be taken into custody. Gloria Guillen, mother of Vanessa has contradicted this report. She stated publicly that she has spoken to witnesses who heard two shots at the moment of Robinson's death. She believes Robinson was executed by police and the Army to cover-up the crime and its accomplices in the highest ranks of the military. 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. Assistant United States Attorneys Mark Frazier and Greg Gloff are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States Government.
- April 22: According to law enforcement, Guillén is murdered with a hammer inside a building's 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.
- 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 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 22 April from Ford 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- June 30: At about 1:00 pm, 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 pm, 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.
- 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.
- July 30: Vanessa Guillen's family meets with President Donald Trump to discuss with him about Vanessa Guillen's murder and to convince the family about the confidence of the full independent review of the case.
- 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".
A mural in honor of Guillén was created in her hometown of Houston by a local artist. The mural portrays her with the flags of both the United States and Mexico, the latter due to her Mexican American ethnicity. Another mural dedicated to her at Taqueria del Sol in the Park Place neighborhood. Multiple people also wrote corridos (songs) about her.
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 make shift altar. Hundreds of people gathered to honour Guillén and other victims of sexual violence and mistreatment within the military.
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.
Guillén's family called for justice and improvement of the way claims of sexual harassment are handled by the military.
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". The investigation found that there was a "permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment at Fort Hood." 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, but as a matter of policy, the Army does not "...release the names of the battalion level and below commanders and leaders who received administrative action."
During the December 8th 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."
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.
- List of solved missing person cases
- Me Too movement
- Murder of Tracie McBride – Kidnapping and murder of a soldier from a military base in Texas
- Sexual harassment in the military
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