It has been confirmed that human remains found buried near the Fort Hood military base in Texas belong to missing soldier, Specialist Vanessa Guillen, who was last seen on April 22.
Her remains were discovered during a search last week near the Leon River, about 30 miles from Fort Hood.
Ford Hood officials named 20-year-old Aaron David Robinson,a junior soldier at the base who took his own life after fleeing his post,as the main suspect in Ms Guillen’s disappearance last week.
A second suspect, Cecily Aguilar 22, estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier and girlfriend to Mr Robinson, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
According to a criminal complaint against her,Ms Aguilar told investigators that Mr Robinson admitted to her that he had bludgeoned Ms Guillen to death with a hammer, before moving her body to a remote site.He then the he asked her to help dismember and dispose of the body.
She is being held in custody while the criminal investigation continues and could face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted. She is expected back in court on 14 July, when bail could be considered.
Ms Guillen’s family has also called for a congressional investigation into the Fort Hood base. They allege that Ms Guillen was harassed by someone in her unit and her sister, Mayra Guillen, believes Ms Guillen was afraid during her time on the base.
Officials on the other hand have said they have no report to indicate she was sexually harassed or assaulted. On Monday, Major General Scott Efflandt said the army would “complete the ongoing investigation into sexual harassment and take action against those findings” at the base, in addition to the investigation into Ms Guillen’s murder.
Findings from a Pentagon survey released last year show the number of sexual assaults increased in 2018 to 20,500, a result that led Pentagon officials to review and make changes to sexual assault prevention efforts. The Pentagon also reported in 2019 that 1,021 formal sexual harassment complaints had been submitted — a 10% increase from the previous year.
Guillen’s case isn’t the first high-profile incident where sexual harassment or assault has been alleged within the military.
Sen. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and the first woman in the Air Force to fly in combat, told a Senate hearing room last year that she had been raped by a superior officer. “I also am a military sexual assault survivor, but unlike so many brave survivors, I didn’t report being sexually assaulted,” she said in 2019.
“I blamed myself. I was ashamed and confused. I thought I was strong but felt powerless. The perpetrators abused their position of power in profound ways. In one case, I was preyed upon and raped by a superior officer,” she said. “I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years of service over my despair. Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again. I didn’t quit. I decided to stay and continue to serve and fight and lead.”
In January, Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser also filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff sexually assaulted her multiple times when they worked at U.S. Strategic Command in 2017.