From Missing To Murdered: Inside The Case Of Fort Hood Soldier Vanessa Guillén
The Army specialist’s remains were found over two months after she vanished while working on the Texas post.
Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén, 20, vanished from Fort Hood in Texas without a trace while working on the post in 2020. Authorities searched for the missing woman amid allegations from family that Guillén was the victim of sexual harassment beginning in 2019. Guillén was eventually found dead, and repercussions from the case continue to reverberate to this day. Ahead is a timeline of the events in what started as a missing person’s report and ended as a murder case.
April 22, 2020
Guillen was last seen alive outside the Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters on Fort Hood. Around 9 p.m., concerned loved ones reported to Army officials that nobody had heard from her the entire day, USA Today reported.
April 23, 2020
Officials notified the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) about Guillén’s disappearance. According to reports, investigators learned that the previous day, Guillén texted her last message to Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who controlled an arms room Guillén was heading to from her workplace in the armory room.
April 24, 2020
Ford Hood investigators issued law enforcement in the area a “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) alert for Guillén. Fort Hood Military Police located Guillén’s personal possessions, including car keys, a wallet, and identification card, inside the armory room where Guillén had been working.
April 28, 2020
Robinson told the U.S. Army CID that the day Guillén went missing, he finished his shift, went to his home off-post, and then returned to base around 6:30 p.m. to enroll in a training course. He claims he then went back to the residence he and Cecily Aguilar, his girlfriend, shared at the time and didn’t leave again that night.
May 7, 2020
The U.S. Army CID investigation uncovered potential sexual harassment involving Guillén and an individual, who was not Robinson, USA Today reported.
May 18, 2020
Two witnesses told investigators they saw Robinson on April 22, the day Guillén disappeared, pulling a large wheeled box. The witnesses noted Robinson put the heavy-looking box into his vehicle and drove away.
May 19, 2020
Investigators obtained Robinson’s permission to search his cell phone and learned he made multiple phone calls to his girlfriend, Aguilar, the evening Guillén vanished as well as in the early morning hours the next day.
May 21, 2020
Fort Hood Public Affairs Director Tom E. Rheinlander says the Army and law enforcement were doing everything in their power to locate Guillén, who had been missing for nearly a month. According to Rheinlander, over 500 soldiers at one point “searched daily on foot in training areas, barracks and across the post.” Searches in the area also include aircraft.
June 12, 2020
Guillén’s family held a protest near Fort Hood to demand more answers and information regarding the search. Two days earlier, they held a press conference to publicly claim the missing soldier alleged before she went missing that she had been the victim of sexual harassment but didn’t feel comfortable reporting it to Army officials.
June 21, 2020
Suspecting foul play, investigators with the U.S. Army, Bell County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Rangers used location data recovered from Robinson’s phone to narrow their search for Guillén to a location in Belton. According to officials, Robinson was near a bridge on the Leon River at 1:59 a.m. on April 23 and subsequently at a second location north of the river for around two hours. During a search, detectives found what was left of a box that was burnt and smelled of decomposition, but Guillén’s remains were not found at the scene.
June 30, 2020
Contractors working on a fence near the Leon River in Bell County discovered what appeared to be scattered human remains mixed with a concrete-like substance and buried. Officials later confirmed the remains belonged to Guillén.
July 1, 2020
Shortly after midnight, Robinson fatally shot himself when law enforcement attempted to detain him in Killeen. His girlfriend Aguilar, 22, was taken into custody earlier the previous day.
July 3, 2020
Law enforcement officials announced they arrested Aguilar and charged her in connection with the case, KTRK reported. Aguilar allegedly told investigators Robinson admitted on April 22 that he struck Guillén in the head with a hammer and killed her. “Subsequently, Robinson enlisted the help of Aguilar in disposing of the dead female's body,” federal prosecutors in Texas claim in a statement.
The Army released a fact-finding investigation report that shows Guillén twice reported sexual harassment issues, but a supervisor and others did not take the appropriate next steps, CNN reported. Robinson is not one of the people Guillén said harassed her.
A filing in federal court showed that during an interview Aguilar offered investigators a possible motive for why Robinson murdered Guillén, KHOU reported. “Guillen saw Robinson's cell phone lock screen, which contained a picture of Aguilar," the document states. “He told [Aguilar] he was worried about getting in trouble for violating the Army's fraternization rules since Aguilar was still married to another soldier and he hit Guillen in the head with a hammer.” According to the document, Aguilar also claims “Robinson would go into moods in which he would not be his normal self and have a ‘tic.’”
Army Spc. Guillén’s family filed a $35 million lawsuit against the Department of the Army — $10 million for Guillén’s wrongful death and $25 million in personal injury claims. “Guillén suffered mental anguish, fear, emotional distress, physical injury, and death as a result of sexual harassment, rape, sodomy, and physical assault,” a court filing states, CNN reported.
Aguilar’s trial is scheduled to begin. She faces multiple federal charges, including tampering with a witness, victim or an informant, and destruction and alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation. If convicted of the charges against her, Aguilar faces up to 20 years in prison with a maximum $250,000 fine, according to KTRK-TV.