Today marks one year since former Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Vanessa Guillen, was last seen alive.
On April 24, 2020, Fort Hood officials sent the initial news release of her disappearance, saying that she had last been seen around 1 p.m. April 22, 2020.
In the following days, weeks and months, details surrounding her disappearance, and subsequent grisly end, began to surface.
During a press conference on June 23, 2020, following a meeting with Fort Hood officials, U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said that Fort Hood officials told Guillen’s family that a supervisor who was conducting barracks checks that day submitted a report that all soldiers had been accounted for, but he had since admitted that he did not see Guillen.
Investigators say a fellow soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, murdered Guillen with a hammer in an arms room in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, although a motive has never been made clear.
Robinson ultimately took his own life in the early morning hours of July 1, 2020, when he was confronted by Killeen police hours after Guillen’s remains had been found.
One person was arrested in the case — Cecily Aguilar, who was Robinson’s girlfriend.
According to an affidavit filed in federal court on July 2, 2020, Aguilar reportedly told police that Robinson enlisted her help in disposing of Guillen’s body.
In the affidavit, Aguilar reportedly told police that Robinson transported Guillen’s body to a remote area of Bell County — later identified as near the Leon River in the eastern part of the county.
Aguilar allegedly admitted to helping Robinson mutilate and dispose of the body, which included multiple attempts to set Guillen’s remains on fire, the affidavit said.
Aguilar is awaiting trial and has been indicted on one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and two substantive counts of tampering with evidence. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count.
As the investigation into her murder was going on, concurrently, there was also an investigation into claims that Guillen had been sexually harassed prior to her death.
Guillen’s family had said she had told them she was sexually harassed by one of her supervisors but she did not report it out of fear of retaliation.
The 3rd Cavalry Regiment will conduct a regimental run this morning to a Fort Hood gate that was recently unveiled in Guillen’s honor.
Members of the regiment are expected to place a wreath near the gate.
A candlelight vigil is planned for tonight near the Guillen mural, located outside Sick Made Tattoo Parlor, 904 N. Fort Hood St., Suite A, in Killeen that begins at 6 p.m.
The celebration/vigil will open with prayer, and guest speakers will be present to offer remarks.
Confirmed speakers include LULAC National President Domingo Garcia and Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra.
Mariachi bands are also expected to play music.
In Washington, D.C., Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, is expected to re-introduce the #IAmVanessaGuillen Act.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is also expected to be present to show her support for the bill.
Speier introduced the bill with 186 cosponsors, including Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, on Sept. 16, 2020.
“The bill responds to resounding calls for change by revolutionizing the military’s response to missing service members and reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by making sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and moving prosecution decisions of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases out of the chain of command,” a release from Garcia’s office said at the time.
At the state level, lawmakers have also introduced several bills in honor of Guillen, including Senate Bill 623.
The bill passed the Texas Senate with a unanimous vote of 31-0 on April 12.
As of Wednesday, the bill is in the Texas House Committee on Defense & Veterans’ Affairs.
If passed and signed into law, it would create a state sexual offense prevention and response program and a coordinator. The coordinator would accept reports of alleged sexual offenses from members of “Texas military forces” against an accused person of the “Texas military forces.”
The bill defines “Texas military forces” as the Texas Army National Guard, the Texas Air National Guard and the Texas State Guard.
Among other services afforded to victims by the coordinator, the victim would be able to make a restricted report or an unrestricted report to the coordinator.
A restricted report would afford the victim the opportunity to confidentially receive medical treatment, and the coordinator would not be allowed to refer the report to law enforcement or members of the victim’s command without the victim’s consent.
In accordance with provisions of the bill, unrestricted reports would immediately be referred to the Texas Rangers division of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The coordinator may also refer the report to local law enforcement agencies that may collect initial evidence or information that must be subsequently turned over to the Texas Rangers.
Other bills introduced in the state legislature include one that would rename a portion of State Highway 3 after Guillen and to declare Sept. 30, Guillen’s birthday, a state holiday.