Army officials have identified remains found last week as those belonging to Spc Vanessa Guillen, according to her family.
Members of the Guillen family reportedly told The Washington Post on Sunday that remains found in a shallow grave last Tuesday near the Fort Hood Army base belong to the 20-year-old soldier who had been missing for more than two months.
Authorities have arrested one suspect in the case but a second suspect identified as Spc Aaron David Robinson killed himself just hours after Guillen’s body was discovered.
Robinson fled Fort Hood on Tuesday night before he could be arrested by Army investigators. He shot himself when officials caught up with him early Wednesday morning, officials said.
Cecily Aguilar, 22, the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier, was arrested last week on suspicion she helped Robinson dismember and dispose of Guillen’s body.
She is being held on a conspiracy to tamper charge at Bell County Jail and could face 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
Family members of Vanessa Guillen (pictured) said Sunday that Army officials have identified remains found last week as those belonging to the soldier who had been missing for more than two months
Authorities said suspect Spc Aaron David Robinson (left) killed himself after Guillen’s body was discovered. Cecily Aguilar (right), 22, the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier, was arrested last week on suspicion she helped Robinson dismember and dispose of Guillen’s body
CID Senior Special Agent Damon Phelps said in a press conference Thursday that investigators were looking into Robinson’s connection with Guillen. While both were at Fort Hood, they were not in the same command and did not work in the same building.
Phelps dismissed the claims of Guillen’s family that she was sexually harassed by a sergeant shortly before her disappearance, saying there was ‘no credible information’ to support their claim.
Guillen was last seen alive at the Texas Army base on April 22 after telling her family she was being harassed by the sergeant.
On Wednesday, US Marshals, Killeen police and the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force tracked down Robinson who had abandoned his post and was walking through at city a few miles from the base. As they tried to confront him, he killed himself.
‘As officers attempted to make contact with the suspect, the suspect displayed a weapon and discharged it toward himself. The suspect succumbed from a self-inflicted gunshot wound,’ the Killeen Police Department said.
A few hours earlier, investigators discovered Guillen’s body near the Leon River in Bell County.
The lawyer for Guillen’s family say the young woman was killed with a hammer on base before being dismembered and buried in concrete.
Natalie Khawam said that she had discussed the case with officials from the Army’s Criminal Investigations Division who told her that Robinson and Aguilar worked together to dispose of the body.
She alleges that they used a machete to dismember the 20-year-old after trying to burn her.
Guillen’s (left and right) family says that she had accused an unnamed sergeant of sexually harassing her and claimed she felt unsafe before she disappeared
Any relationship or interactions between Guillen and Robinson could not be confirmed because of the ongoing investigation, Fort Hood CID Special Agent Damon Phelps said at a press conference on Thursday.
Further information about the role he played in the Houston native’s disappearance was also not revealed.
Guillen had allegedly made complaints about a superior officer, but officials said Robinson was not in her chain of command.
Army officials said they had come across no evidence of Guillen being sexually harassed after opening a separate investigation into the claims last week but encouraged anyone with information on the allegation, or on her disappearance, to come forward.
Aguilar, 22, of Killeen, was arrested by Texas Rangers as is currently being held at the Bell County Jail.
Officials have not confirmed her relationship to Robinson. But in a separate press conference Thursday, Khawam claimed that Aguilar was Robinson’s girlfriend.
Khawam claimed Guillen was working in the armory with the suspect when she told him she was going to report him for breaking a military rule.
She said the man then grabbed a hammer and began ‘bludgeoning her head over and over’.
Khawam said she was told by officials that Robinson cleaned up the area where Guillen was killed, placed her body in a container and wheeled her out to his car.
Later that afternoon, Khawam said, the soldier drove to pick up a woman and took the body to a nearby river.
There, Khawam said, the pair tried to burn Guillen’s body, but later dismembered it with a machete. Then, they put cement on her body and buried the remains.
The first image of the site where evidence was found was released on Wednesday
The search had continued in this area along the Leon River about 20 miles from the Fort Hood base after the first evidence connected with Guillen’s disappearance was found last week
She added that the remains were so badly damaged that medical officials were unable to use her face or skull for bone recognition or for dental record confirmations.
Texas Equusearch’s Tim Miller, who was assisting in the search for Guillen, said that attempts had been made to keep the body well-concealed and it was discovered only after a man working in the area noticed a foul smell.
‘It appears he buried her, put lime on her, mixed up concrete, put that over her, put dirt over her, rocks and stuff,’ Miller told KHOU.
The investigation found its first piece of evidence last week which led them to believe that Guillen may be close by.
On Wednesday, a picture of the site was revealed for the first time as Miller announced they found the lid to a Pelican storage case which prompted them to continue the search in the area.
A witness had previously said they saw a case being loaded into a car at around 8.30pm close to the time that Guillen first disappeared in April.
The discovery was made as the Army announced they were promoting Guillen. She was promoted to Specialist on Monday.
The soldier’s family held an emotional press conference Wednesday in which Guillen’s sister Mayra claimed that she met Robinson during a visit to the base.
‘When I first went up to that base, that subject, I met him not knowing that he had something to do with it. I felt something was telling me that he did something. He still had the nerve that same day to laugh in my face and apparently now he kills himself,’ she said.
‘Why? I don’t know, but whoever is responsible has to pay.’
Guillen’s sister Mayra (pictured speaking), told reporters in DC she met the suspect who killed himself when she went to the Fort Hood base and that he laughed in her face
Texas Equusearch’s Tim Miller, who was assisting in the search for Guillen (left and right), said that attempts had been made to keep the body well-concealed and it was discovered only after a man working in the area noticed a foul smell
The family added that they had believed Robinson to be the person who sexually harassed Guillen before she vanished but Army authorities insisted Thursday that they had found no evidence that this is true.
The Army has said it will hold back on releasing information as Guillen’s family called for the whole base to be closed down and investigated.
The Army has defended its decision not to release information saying that ‘doing so can seriously jeopardize the charging and successful prosecution of individuals’.
‘We have made significant progress in this tragic situation and are doing everything possible to get to the truth,’ they added in a statement to ABC Houston.
‘We have a dead person because of sexual harassment,’ Natalie Khawam said at the start of the press conference.
Guillen was last seen at the Fort Hood Army Base in Killeen, Texas, on April 22 wearing a black t-shirt, light purple leggings and black Nike sneakers.
Her car keys, barracks room key, identification card and wallet were later found in the armory room where she was working earlier in the day.
Volunteer group Texas EquuSearch came across the remains in an undisclosed area in Coryell County, not too far from the site where the remains of missing soldier Gregory Wedel-Morales were found on June 19.
Morales, who was also known as Gregory Wedel, was last seen on August 19, 2019 driving his personal vehicle outside of Fort Hood.
He was to be discharged within days after his disappearance, the Army said.
A $25,000 reward is being offered for information about his death.
Morales disappeared about eight months before Guillen vanished from the base and they are not thought to be linked.