Vanessa Guillen’s family presses for more accountability in Army’s handling of Fort Hood soldier’s case
AUSTIN, Texas (Tribune News Service) — The family of slain U.S. Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen learned this week that among more than a dozen Fort Hood soldiers accused of wrongdoing in her case, none has been removed from the military.
Army Gen. John Michael Murray, commanding general for Army Futures Command, met with the Guillen family Tuesday to discuss the results of the completed administrative homicide investigation, which is separate from the criminal investigation that’s still active.
Attorney Natalie Khawam, who started representing the Guillen family shortly after they reported Vanessa missing on April 22, 2020, praised Murray for his transparency and said he seemed genuine about pursuing justice for the family.
First Lieutenant Spencer Daulisa pays his respects to a memorial of Spc. Vanessa Guillen outside of Fort Hood military base in Killeen on Thursday, July 24, 2020.
However, she and the Guillens told Murray they were still concerned about the lack of accountability for those accused of sexually harassing Vanessa or failing to properly investigate her death.
“It’s unfair to watch perpetrators and wrongdoers continue to sit and exist in the Army system because all you are doing is moving them from one base to another,” Khawam said. “That’s not fixing the problem. That’s just allowing someone to get away in the loopholes of the system.”
Army leaders in late April confirmed for the first time that Guillen was sexually harassed and subjected to retaliation at Fort Hood, as her family had consistently alleged since her disappearance.
Authorities suspect another Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, beat Guillen to death with a hammer in an armory room on post the morning of April 22, 2020. Robinson fatally shot himself July 1 as authorities sought to question him, according to Killeen police.
Before Guillen’s remains were discovered at the end of June, her family led protests outside Fort Hood demanding more answers about the search for Vanessa. Guillen’s mother, Gloria, revealed that her daughter had confided to her that multiple soldiers had been sexually harassing her on post. One of the soldiers Guillen said was harassing her was Robinson, according to the family.
“For some reason, the Army continues to say that Aaron Robinson did not sexually harass Vanessa,” Khawam said. “When, it fact nobody knows what happened in that armory room. So, how do you speak about something that happened when you weren’t there?”
The Guillen family requested on Tuesday for the investigative summary to say that while no evidence proves Guillen was sexually harassed or assaulted by Robinson, it’s a possibility. Robinson had a confirmed history of sexually harassing other soldiers on post, Khawam was told by military leaders.
Khawam on Tuesday said Murray was open to their suggestions, which also included a recommendation to court-martial a non-commissioned officer accused of sexually harassing Guillen in the months before her death.
But officials have declined to identify the non-commissioned officer or discuss what consequences they might face.
Army officials also announced back in December that 14 military members were fired or suspended as a result of a separate investigation into how Fort Hood leaders handled the months-long search for Guillen and how they communicated with her family.
A final report from that investigation described how Fort Hood leaders created a toxic environment that allowed for a culture of crimes like sexual violence to happen frequently on post.
One of those punished was former Fort Hood Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was removed from his position at the Central Texas post. He was also denied his previously scheduled promotion and moved to another installation.
However, Army officials have refused to publicly identify the majority of the military service members who were accused of crimes or wrongdoings related to Guillen’s death, nor have they provided updates about what punishments they received or their current standings in the military.
Cecily Aguilar was arrested on July 1, 2020, in Bell County, Texas. An attorney has said that she’s the girlfriend of Aaron Robinson, the soldier who killed himself when officials approached him about Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance.
“Nobody has been completely removed from the Army,” Khawam said. “They have been relieved of their command, but they’re still collecting a paycheck. So, us taxpayers are still paying for these perverts and problems to be in the system.”
She said the system “does not have room for bad apples.”
“”When you commit a crime you should be relieved,” she continued. “You should not be allowed to stay in a system just because you’re older or richer or have more seniority. Seniority has no place in the legal system. The legal system is about justice.”
Lupe Guillen, then 16-year-old sister of Spc. Vanessa Guillen cries during a protest demanding Fort Hood leaders do more to find the soldier who, at the time, was still missing.
Hours after the Guillens’ meeting with Murray, Cecily Aguilar, a Killeen woman accused of helping to conceal Vanessa’s death, received eight new charges against her by a grand jury.
Aguilar now has an 11-count indictment against her in which authorities say she helped Robinson, her boyfriend, dismember Guillen’s body and dispose of her remains near the Leon River in Bell County and deleting evidence online.
Khawam said the family now expects a court date for Aguilar to be set sometime next week.
©2021 Gannett Co., Inc.
Visit at statesman.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.