Girlfriend of Fort Hood soldier suspected in Vanessa Guillen death seeks to toss charges
By HEATHER OSBOURNE | The Austin American-Statesman | Published: April 29, 2021
AUSTIN (Tribune News Service) — Less than a week after the anniversary of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen's death, the woman authorities have accused of helping cover up the crime asked a federal judge on Tuesday to dismiss all charges against her.
Cecily Aguilar, 22, of Killeen is accused of helping another Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, dismember and dispose of Guillen's remains near the Leon River in Bell County in the days following her death on April 22, 2020.
The case received international attention as Guillen's family for weeks protested outside the gates of Fort Hood, demanding that Army leaders do more to find the 20-year-old soldier the family had reported missing. Guillen's remains were eventually found by fence workers near Belton on June 30, 2020.
Authorities believe Robinson killed Guillen inside a Fort Hood armory room with a hammer, put her remains in a tough box and drove them off post. He then enlisted Aguilar, who was his girlfriend, to help dispose of Guillen's body over the next few days, investigators have said.
Before Robinson was ever charged, he fatally shot himself in the head on July 1 as authorities tried to confront him hours after Guillen's remains were found, court documents released Tuesday said.
Aguilar, after confessing to authorities on July 1 that she helped Robinson hide Guillen's body, was charged with altering, destroying, mutilating and concealing evidence, including Guillen's body.
However, Aguilar's defense team told U.S. District Judge Alan Albright in a motion filed Tuesday that those charges aren't very clear.
"The indictment in this case is shockingly bereft of factual detail from which Ms. Aguilar might be apprised of the charges against her," the motion says. "Each count is largely a recitation of the statutory language of the offense it charges, with limited or no application to Ms. Aguilar."
Tuesday's request comes just one month after Aguilar also asked Albright to throw out her confession, saying it was illegally obtained because she was not read her rights by investigators. A decision on that motion could come late next month.
On the anniversary of Vanessa Guillen's death last week, her family said little about the case against Aguilar, and instead focused their efforts on fighting for new legislation that could protect soldiers like Vanessa from sexual assault and harassment.
Gloria Guillen, the soldier's mother, has maintained that Guillen was sexually harassed by Robinson and others before her death, but did not report it to her chain of command out of fear of retaliation. Gloria's accusations triggered a viral social media hashtag, #IAmVanessaGuillen, that hundreds of service members used online to share their own experiences with sexual assault in the military.
The #IAmVanessaGuillen movement would eventually turn into the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, a bill that if passed into law would allow investigators outside a soldier's direct chain of command to handle reports of sexual crimes.
Lawmakers supporting the bill say the Army's current practices are problematic because those who investigate sexual crimes are leaders in the victim's direct chain of command and often have relationships with the accused, which could lead to a conflict of interest.
However, Attorney Natalie Khawam, who represented the Guillen family for the past year, said on behalf of the Guillens on Wednesday that Aguilar's attempts to get her confession and charges thrown out is an abuse of the legal system, an abuse of taxpayer money and also an overall abuse of the court's limited resources.
"We're willing to give Aguilar her confession back, if she can give use Vanessa back," Khawam said. "Otherwise, here is my message to her, and all criminals who harm innocent people. When you commit a crime, you commit the time and no one in this country is above the law."