Woman accused of helping hide Spc. Vanessa Guillen's body pleads not guilty

Vanessa Guillen
Photo credit Getty Images
By Elizabeth Howe and Abbie Bennett

The woman accused of helping to hide the body of murdered Fort Hood soldier Spc. Vanessa Guillen has pleaded not guilty. 

The murder of Vanessa Guillen is now a 'reckoning moment' for the military

Cecily Aguilar, 22, of Killeen, Texas was charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and two counts of tampering with evidence. Federal and state investigators said Aguilar helped dispose of the body of 20-year-old Guillen after she was killed and dismembered by now-deceased Army Spc. Aaron Robinson.

If convicted, Aguilar faces up to 20 years in federal prison. 

Aguilar cooperated with law enforcement in the lead-up to Robinson's suicide.

As Aguilar's conviction is deliberated, she has been denied bail. The Guillen family attorney, Natalie Khawam, says Aguilar already attempted to flee the country.

Guillen's murder sparked a resurgence in the military #MeToo movement across the country. Women veterans have come forward with stories of military sexual trauma using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen, drawing attention once again to the widespread, systemic issues of military sexual assault and harassment. 

The murder of Vanessa Guillen is now a 'reckoning moment' for the military

Women veterans and members of Congress have also called for an operational closure of Fort Hood and an investigation into the command. They have also called for the dismissal of every individual in Guillen's chain of command and a halt in enlistment -- especially for Latinas. 

Disappearance, death and discovery

The 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier went missing April 22 and Army investigators said human remains found June 30 belonged to Guillen.

She was last seen in the parking lot of her Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Her car keys, barracks' room key, ID and wallet were all found in the armory. 

The last person to see Guillen alive, according to a criminal complaint filed in Texas District Court, told investigators she left the armory where she worked to go to one controlled by another soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson "to confirm serial numbers of weapons and equipment," leaving behind her belongings. 

A search of her phone records showed her last outgoing text message was to Robinson, the complaint said. When interviewed by investigators, Robinson said Guillen left his armory to take paperwork to the motorpool. But she never arrived. 

Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam told Connecting Vets Army Criminal Investigation Command officials told her, and the criminal complaint also says, that Spc. Aaron Robinson killed Guillen. 

Khawam said she was told Robinson and Guillen argued in the armory where both worked after Guillen discovered he was allegedly having an affair with the estranged wife of a former soldier, Cecily Aguilar.

During the argument, Robinson allegedly bludgeoned Guillen to death with a hammer.

"This heinous act caused blood to be splashed all over the room," Khawam said. 

Robinson then concealed her body in a container and later disposed of the body near the Leon River with help from Aguilar, his married girlfriend.

Two witnesses told investigators they saw Robinson wheel a tough box out of the armory to his vehicle and drive away on April 22, the complaint said. Witnesses said the wheeled box "appeared very heavy in weight." 

Khawam said Robinson picked up Aguilar so she could help him dispose of the body. 

The criminal complaint said a search of Aguilar and Robinson's cell phone records, including location data, led them to search the area near the Leon River where Guillen's remains were later found. Scattered remains in a "concrete-like substance" were originally discovered on June 30, the complaint reads. 

After finding the remains, investigators again interviewed Aguilar, who told them Robinson hit Guillen with a hammer "multiple times at his arms room, killing her on Fort Hood" and said Guillen "never made it out of (Fort Hood) alive."

She said Robinson took her to the area near the Leon River, opened the tough box and showed her Guillen's body. They then proceeded to dismember Guillen's body together using "a hatchet or ax and a machete-type knife." When they could not burn the body, they placed her remains "in three separate holes" and covered them. 

"At first they tried to set her on fire, but she wouldn't burn," Khawam said. "Then they dismembered this beautiful U.S. soldier's body with a machete. She needs to be brought to justice." 

Aguilar and Robinson returned to the site on a later day, uncovered Guillen's remains, "continued the process of breaking down the remains," burned them again, "along with their gloves and hairnets" before placing the remains back in the three holes with concrete Aguilar purchased, the complaint reads. Robinson and Aguilar then allegedly burned the clothing they were wearing at their home. 

On the night of June 30, Robinson fled his barracks and Fort Hood after the remains were found, the complaint reads. Aguilar helped law enforcement locate Robinson by calling and texting him. The following morning, as law enforcement "attempted to make contact," according to CID, Robinson "brandished a pistol and shot himself in the head," dying by suicide, the complaint and CID reports read. 

Robinson, 20, of Calumet City, Ill., was a coworker of Guillen's, Fort Hood and CID officials said. He was not a supervisor in her chain of command. Robinson was a small arms repairer with the Forward Support Troop, Engineer Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. 

Aguilar was arrested July 1 and charged by civilian authorities on Thursday with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence in connection with Guillen's disappearance, according to a Justice Department statement about a criminal complaint.


Reach @AbbieRBennett or @ECBHowe.
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