Remains found in Texas confirmed to be those of slain soldier Vanessa Guillen
Remains found in Texas last week have been confirmed to be those of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who is thought to have been killed by a soldier who later died by suicide, the military said Monday.
“I lack the words to make sense of this tragic loss,” Fort Hood’s deputy commanding general, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, said at a news conference.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command determined that the remains found Tuesday near the Leon River in Bell County were those of Guillen, 20, using DNA samples. Efflandt said Guillen’s family was notified Sunday.
Guillen was last seen April 22. A suspect in her killing, Spc. Aaron Robinson, fled the base and died by suicide early Wednesday as law enforcement agencies tried to make contact with him, officials have said.
A woman described as Robinson’s girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, 22, of Killeen, has been charged and is accused of helping Robinson dispose of Guillen’s body.
Aguilar appeared in court by video Monday, and when asked whether she understood the charges against her, she replied, “Yeah, sure,” NBC affiliate KCEN of Waco reported.
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She faces a count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Manske set a preliminary hearing for July 14, when bail could be considered.
Aguilar’s public defender chose not to comment, according to KCEN.
According to a criminal complaint, Aguilar told investigators that Robinson told her that he killed a female soldier by hitting her on the head with a hammer at Fort Hood on April 22.
Robinson is alleged to have enlisted Aguilar later to help him get rid of the body at a remote site in Bell County, near Fort Hood, officials said.
Guillen was promoted from private first class to specialist last week because of her time in service.
An attorney for Guillen’s family has said Guillen reported sexual harassment to her family and other soldiers at the base.
Guillen’s sister, Mayra, has told NBC News’ “Dateline” that Guillen never identified the person who is alleged to have harassed her and that she never reported the incidents to the Army’s sexual harassment and prevention program.
Robinson was a suspect in Guillen’s disappearance, but he “was not involved” in the investigation looking into the sexual harassment allegations, Special Agent Damon Phelps of Criminal Investigation Command has said.
Efflandt said the military would complete its investigation into sexual harassment and take action based on the findings.
“Every person who raises their right hand to serve their family and their country in uniform deserves to be safe and treated with dignity and respect,” Efflandt said. He said anyone who is the victim of harassment or assault should come forward.
Efflandt also said he would continue to seek outside assistance and review “to ensure any shortcomings indicated during this troubling time are thoroughly identified and addressed.”
An attorney for Guillen’s family, Natalie Khawam, has said Guillen lost her life “because the system is broken.” They want Congress to take action.
Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.
David K. Li
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.