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On Sunday, human remains found in a Texas grave were identified by investigators as those of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen who was bludgeoned to death with a hammer on April 22, according to Guillen’s family attorney Natalie Khawam.
Guillen’s remains were discovered on June 30 near Leon river, east of Fort Hood. A suspect in the case who was also an active duty soldier Aaron Robinson, fatally shot himself on July 1 after investigators chased and confronted him.
According to Guillen’s family, Guillen was a target of sexual harassment long before her disappearance and had reportedly told Robinson that she intended to file a sexual harassment complaint against him, leading Robinson to become enraged and kill her.
“She felt if she spoke, something would happen. I now realize everything leads back to them harassing her at work,” said Mayra Guillen, Guillen’s sister.
“My sister was too afraid to report the harassment because no one would listen to her just like the other girls from #IAmVanessaGuillen. They take the sexual harassment, the sexual assault, as a joke. They don’t care," said Lupe Guillen, Guillen’s other sister to NPR.
After the sexual harassment allegations surfaced, many female army members and veterans came forward to share their own sexual assault stories, circulating the hashtag “#IAmVanessaGuillen."
Robinson’s girlfriend and another suspect in the case, Cecily Aguilar, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence, according to court records.
In statements made part of the ongoing investigation which culminated in her arrest, Aguilar told investigators during an interview that Guillen in fact wanted to report Robinson for having an affair. Aguilar claimed that Robinson told her Guillen had seen her photo in Robinson’s phone and knew her to be the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier. (The military sees adultery as a crime.)
Subsequent to her arrest, Aguilar revealed that Robinson had picked her up and drove her to the site near Leon river where the body was already kept in a box. Together, they both dismembered and attempted to burn the Guillen’s remains in order to bury them in separate graves. Four days later they returned to the site and concealed the remains with concrete.
Aguilar was taken into custody on June 30 after the investigators found the body. On July 1, Robinson was located in Killeen after being “absconded” from Fort Hood a day earlier according to a criminal complaint filed by an FBI investigator in the United States District Court.
Following the confrontation, Robinson killed himself.
Shortly after Guillen’s disappearance, the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) opened an investigation. However, they have been criticized for being too slow with Khawam highlighting how it took the investigators two months to find the phone data and arrest the suspects.
“[Guillen’s] leadership failed her. The Army failed her.”
On July 2, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York and Republican Senator Jackie Speier from California criticized the investigators in an open letter for solving the case only after public pressure mounted following the social media campaigns by Guillen’s family.
“We are gravely concerned with the appearance that the Army was able to marshal significant additional investigative resources after her family began a social media campaign with the hashtags #IAmVanessaGuillen and #FindMySister.”
“If the Army must rely on relatives, not commanders or comrades, to take the initiative in locating missing soldiers, there is something fundamentally broken in the institution.”