Missing Fort Hood soldier Spc. Vanessa Guillen was killed in armory, then dismembered, court documents say

Abbie Bennett
July 02, 2020 - 1:47 pm
Vanessa guillen

Courtesy of the US Army

This story has been updated.

Missing Fort Hood soldier Spc. Vanessa Guillen's remains were found near a Texas river, her family said this week. Now, the family's attorney and a criminal complaint reveal new information about the circumstances of her death while Fort Hood officials shared few details. 

Guillen, 20, was last seen on April 22 in the parking lot of her Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Her car keys, barracks' room key, ID and wallet were all found in the armory. 

On Tuesday, Army Criminal Investigation Command and local law enforcement officials said human remains were found in an area near the Leon River and as of Thursday evening, they had not been officially identified yet.

But Natalie Khawam, attorney for the Guillen family, and a criminal complaint filed in Texas District Court, shed light on Guillen's fate, and the people officials suspect are responsible. 

The last person to see Guillen alive, according to the complaint, told investigators she left the armory where she worked to go to one controlled by Spc. Aaron Robinson "to confirm serial numbers of weapons and equipment," leaving behind her belongings. 

A search of her phone records showed her last outgoing text message was to Robinson, the complaint said. When interviewed by investigators, Robinson said Guillen left his armory to take paperwork to the motorpool. But she never arrived. 

Khawam said CID officials told her, and the criminal complaint also says, that Spc. Aaron Robinson killed Guillen. 

Khawam said she was told Robinson and Guillen argued in the armory where both worked after Guillen discovered he was allegedly having an affair with the estranged wife of a former soldier, Cecily Aguilar.

During the argument, Robinson allegedly bludgeoned Guillen to death with a hammer.

"This heinous act caused blood to be splashed all over the room," Khawam said. 

Robinson then concealed her body in a container and later disposed of the body near the Leon River with help from Aguilar, his married girlfriend.

Two witnesses told investigators they saw Robinson wheel a tough box out of the armory to his vehicle and drive away on April 22, the complaint said. Witnesses said the wheeled box "appeared very heavy in weight." 

Khawam said Robinson picked up Aguilar so she could help him dispose of the body. 

The criminal complaint said a search of Aguilar and Robinson's cell phone records, including location data, led them to search the area near the Leon River where Guillen's remains were later found. Scattered remains in a "concrete-like substance" were originally discovered on June 30, the complaint reads. 

After finding the remains, investigators again interviewed Aguilar, who told them Robinson hit Guillen with a hammer "multiple times at his arms room, killing her on Fort Hood" and said Guillen "never made it out of (Fort Hood) alive."

She said Robinson took her to the area near the Leon River, opened the tough box and showed her Guillen's body. They then proceeded to dismember Guillen's body together using "a hatchet or ax and a machete-type knife." When they could not burn the body, they placed her remains "in three separate holes" and covered them. 

"At first they tried to set her on fire, but she wouldn't burn," Khawam said. "Then they dismembered this beautiful U.S. soldier's body with a machete. She needs to be brought to justice." 

Aguilar and Robinson returned to the site on a later day, uncovered Guillen's remains, "continued the process of breaking down the remains," burned them again, "along with their gloves and hairnets" before placing the remains back in the three holes with concrete Aguilar purchased, the complaint reads. Robinson and Aguilar then allegedly burned the clothing they were wearing at their home. 

On Tuesday night, Robinson fled his barracks and Fort Hood after the remains were found, the complaint reads. Aguilar helped law enforcement locate Robinson by calling and texting him. On Wednesday morning, as law enforcement "attempted to make contact," according to CID, Robinson "brandished a pistol and shot himself in the head," dying by suicide, the complaint reads. 

Robinson, 20, of Calumet City, Ill., was a coworker of Guillen's, Fort Hood and CID officials said. He was not a supervisor in her chain of command. Robinson was a small arms repairer with the Forward Support Troop, Engineer Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. 

Aguilar, 22, was arrested Wednesday and charged by civilian authorities on Thursday with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence in connection with Guillen's disappearance, according to a Justice Department statement about a criminal complaint.

Aguilar remains in custody awaiting a first appearance in federal court, Justice Department officials said. A hearing is expected early next week. If convicted, Aguilar faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.

Senior Commander, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, III Corps deputy commanding general, CID and law enforcement held a press conference Thursday afternoon. They said the remains found Tuesday still had not been identified yet and did not address the details Khawam shared. Fort Hood officials maintained the investigation was into Guillen's disappearance and did not address her death. 

"We can't comment on specifics because it is an ongoing investigation," Fort Hood CID Senior Special Agent Damon Phelps said. 

Efflandt and Phelps said no evidence had been found so far connecting sexual harassment with Guillen's disappearance, though some allegations had been investigated. They said none of those allegations were linked to Robinson. Phelps said available video footage had been reviewed, but there was not video "of the incident" and no video in Guillen's unit. They said agencies had spent 10,000 hours investigating and conducted more than 300 interviews so far.

Phelps said two suspects -- Robinson and Aguilar -- have been identified so far, but no others. With Robinson's death, Phelps said "There is one person who will be prosecuted," but did not name Aguilar. They would only describe the relationship between Guillen and Robinson as "coworkers." 

Last week, officials said they suspected foul play in Guillen's disappearance. The 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Guillen's unit, said it had opened an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. 

Guillen's family said she told them she had been sexually harassed at Fort Hood, but Army officials said previously they had no "credible information" about those allegations. 

"She was afraid to (report it) because the sexual harassment was coming from her superiors, so her concern was the retaliation, being blackballed,” Khawam said during Wednesday's press conference. “We believe the person that killed her is that person that sexually harassed her.”

“Sooner or later the truth will come out because we are not going to stop,” said Guillen’s older sister, Myra, during the press conference. “We have to know everything.”

Army to investigate Fort Hood SHARP program after disappearance of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen

U.S. Army Forces Command sent an Inspector General team to Fort Hood this week to investigate the Fort Hood Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program after the disappearance of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen. The inspection comes at Efflandt's request, who said sexual assault and harassment is "categorically averse to our Army values."

The team arrived the same day the human remains were found near the Leon River, where search parties looked for the 20-year-old soldier last week. On Wednesday, Guillen's family and their attorney told reporters at a press conference in Washington, D.C. they believed the remains belong to Guillen, though they still had not been identified as of Thursday afternoon.

Remains found are missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen, family believes

Wednesday evening, Fort Hood public affairs announced Guillen had been promoted to specialist, effective July 1, "due to time in service." 

A team of seven investigators is set to focus on three main objectives, according to a news release from Fort Hood Wednesday evening: 

  • "Examining SHARP program implementation at Fort Hood;
  • Assessing whether the command climate is supportive of soldiers reporting incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault;
  • Identifying an potentially systemic issues with the SHARP program at Fort Hood, as well as any resource constraints."

The inspection team from Fort Bragg, N.C. is expected to brief Fort Hood and Army Forces Command leaders when they complete their investigation. 

Forces Command and Fort Hood did not say if the investigation was related to Guillen's disappearance. Her family previously said Guillen did not report her harassment to her unit's SHARP representative.

The family, Khawam and a few Capitol Hill lawmakers are calling for a congressional investigation of Guillen's disappearance. 

"They should be ashamed of themselves. Protocol was breached in every manner. We lost one of our own on our own base," Khawam said. "Everything we were given was lies. It was evasive. They were very disingenuous to us. I don't know who's covering up for who but it doesn't matter."

On Thursday, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., sent a letter to Acting Department of Defense Inspector General Sean O'Donnell calling for an investigation into Guillen's disappearance. 

CID officials said Guillen's case is still an open, ongoing criminal investigation. 

“There is still a lot of investigative work to be done and we ask for the public and media’s patience,” said Chris Grey, CID spokesman. “There are obviously pieces of information and evidence that cannot be shared with the public during an active criminal investigation. Doing so can seriously jeopardize the charging and successful prosecution of individuals. When important investigative information is prematurely released, criminals can and will destroy evidence, conspire to change their stories, build false alibis, etc.”

Anyone with information can contact Army CID Special Agents at 254-287-2722 or the Military Police Desk at 254-288-1170. They can also anonymously submit information at www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html. People who want to remain anonymous "will be honored to the degree allowable under the law and the information will be held in the strictest confidence allowable," CID officials said. 

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Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.

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