Hue and Cry

The Murder of PFC Vanessa Guillen

The Murder of PFC Vanessa Guillen

Location: Fort Hood, Texas  |  Year: 2020

Private First Class Vanessa Guillen was 20 years old and from Houston, Texas. Family and friends know her as someone who loves to be active – working out, going on a run, or playing soccer with friends. After graduating from high school she enlisted in the army when she was 18 years old.

Vanessa was first stationed in South Carolina and then Virginia before landing in the Fort Hood Military base in Texas at the beginning of 2020. She was stationed there working as a 91F, Small Arms/Artillery Repairer.

Vanessa Guillen (NBC News)

She was close to her family and would often come home during the weekends to spend time with them. Her sister, Mayra Guillen, recalls a change in Vanessa when she arrived at Fort Hood, however. She remembered her not being as joyful and once getting a text message from Vanessa saying that she didn’t like being at Fort Hood, and would one day open up to her as to why.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 22, Vanessa texted her boyfriend Juan Cruz to tell him that she was headed to work in the armory room on base. Nothing seemed amiss and Vanessa seemed happy to him.

Around noon, Juan texted Vanessa but none of his messages were being read. Maya then called Vanessa and her call went straight to voicemail and when she sent her a text, it couldn’t be delivered.

Vanessa was last seen at 1 pm in the parking lot of her Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, on Fort Hood. She was seen wearing black Nike shoes, a black t-shirt, and purple fitness-type pants.

Investigators later found her car keys, barracks room key, ID, and wallet, in the armory room where she was working earlier in the day. Her cellphone could not be found and was last tracked in Belton, Texas which is approximately 20 minutes from where she was last seen. Her family, boyfriend, and friends have not heard from her since she disappeared.

She was a very responsible person. I know she just wouldn’t leave her stuff there. I know my sister, she wouldn’t leave stuff there if she didn’t know she wasn’t coming back.

Mayra Guillen, sister of Vanessa Guillen (KWTX)

Shortly after Vanessa was reported missing, Fort Hood Military Police issued a “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) alert to nearby law enforcement. According to a press release, a spokesman for Fort Hood said that their search efforts initially included more than 500 soldiers from the base searching on foot and that they are now conducting targeted searches in smaller groups.

Gloria Guillen, the mother of Vanessa, gave an in-depth interview with Raul Brindis about her daughter’s disappearance (the video is in Spanish, see MamásLatinas article for an English summary). She stated the following: her daughter told her she was being sexually harassed on base by a sergeant who would follow her whenever she would run or exercise, making her feel very uncomfortable. When Gloria told her daughter to report the sergeant, Vanessa replied by telling her other women have reported the same officer, only to have no one believe them. She was also fearful of retaliation if she did report him. After her daughter’s disappearance, Gloria received a phone call from a sergeant on base who elected to remain anonymous in fear of violent retaliation. He told her that he believed Vanessa was kidnapped inside the base and alluded to issues of corruption and secrecy.

Vanessa was unfortunately never able to give her mother the name of the sergeant who was harassing her before she went missing.

UPDATE – July 6, 2020

More than two months after Vanessa Guillen was last seen, partial human remains were found in a shallow grave by the Leon River by contractors working on a fence near the river. The buried remains appeared to have been encased in a concrete-like substance.

The family’s lawyer, Natalie Khawam stated that the CID told her Vanessa was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in the armory room and then later transported off the base in a box, dismembered, and buried in the woods.

The main suspect in Vanessa’s killing is 20-year-old, Spc. Aaron David Robinson of Calumet City. After being confronted by Army investigators, he shot and killed himself. His estranged wife, Cecily Aguilar is currently in police custody for assisting with the dismemberment and disposal of Vanessa’s body.

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