A Texas woman was sentenced Monday to 30 years in prison for trying to cover up the slaying of Vanessa Guillen, a soldier at Fort Hood, now known as Fort Cavazos, that drew widespread attention for sexual assault in 2020. Inspired changes in the military and federal law.
Only one woman, Cecily Aguilar, has been charged in Ms. Guille’s death. In November, Ms. Aguilar pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder after making a false statement at a sentencing hearing Monday in a federal court in Waco, Texas.
Specialist Gillen, 20, went missing on April 22, 2020 at Fort Hood, the US’s third largest military base, after telling friends she had been sexually harassed, although she had not made any formal complaints, authorities said. A few months later, on June 30, his body was found mutilated and burned.
Specialist Gillen’s family has alleged he was sexually assaulted before he was killed, drawing outrage from many and calls from activists for systemic changes in how the military handles reports of sexual harassment and assault.
In December 2020, the Army disciplined a dozen officers after an investigation found “major deficiencies” in Fort Hood’s climate and culture. A federal law named for Specialist Gillen took effect on January 1, 2022, requiring sexual harassment complaints involving service members to be referred to an independent investigator. The decision to prosecute for sexual assault and harassment is made outside of service members’ commanders, who are protected against retaliation.
Investigators searched Specialist Gillen’s phone and found that the last text he had sent was to another soldier, Aaron Robinson. Prosecutors said in court documents that Specialist Robinson killed him by hitting him in the head with a hammer and hiding the body in a large box.
Specialist Robinson was initially detained, but a series of missteps allowed the soldier to escape, according to an Army report.
In charging documents, Justice Department officials said that Specialist Robinson’s girlfriend, Ms. Aguilar, told a resident about the murder and that the couple tried to cover it up.
“According to court documents, 25-year-old Cecile Aguilar aided and abetted military expert Aaron Robinson in the mutilation, destruction, mutilation and concealment of evidence of Vanessa Gillen’s body – in order to prevent Robinson from being charged,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas. said in a statement on Monday.
During the investigation into Specialist Gillen’s disappearance, Ms. Aguilar made four false statements to federal investigators, the attorney’s office said, and she changed and deleted information on Specialist Robinson’s Google account.
Ms. Aguilar later admitted to having played a role in the disposal of Specialist Gillen’s body, prosecutors said in court documents, including helping Specialist Robinson dismember the body with an ax or hatchet and a machete-like knife. Leon River.
The Gillens’ lawyer, Natalie Gawam, said Monday’s hearing revealed “horrific” and “complicated” details of how Ms Aguilar disposed of Specialist Gillen’s body.
Ms Kwam said forensic experts had testified that it was rare for them to “crush bones like they did” and that it was not something they had seen before that had “worked to the extent of destroying his body and evidence”.
“It is our hope that today’s sentence brings relief and a sense of justice to the Guillen family, who have endured such pain throughout the past few years,” Jaime Esparza, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, said in a statement. “Ms. Aguilar’s actions were indefensible, and she will now face the maximum penalty for the choices she made.
Specialist Guillen’s older sister, Myra Guillen, noted Ms Aguilar’s sentence on social media, writing to her sister: “You got justice today.”
“Now the criminal aspect of the case is closed,” Ms. Gawam said.
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