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Texas Woman Sentenced to 30 Years for U.S. Soldier Vanessa Guillen's Murder
Guillén's mother testified in court about the pain the family has endured following the murder.
Texas woman Cecily Aguilar was sentenced to 30 years in prison for her role in the 2020 murder of U.S. soldier Vanessa Guillén.
On Aug. 14, Aguilar appeared in federal court, where she was given the maximum possible sentence after she pleaded guilty to one count of accessory to murder after the fact and three counts of false statement or representation in connection to the murder, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Western Texas.
The sentencing came after hours of testimony from multiple witnesses, experts, and more. Notably, Vanessa's mother, Gloria Guillén, testified to the pain and grief that the family has experienced since their daughter went missing in April 2020. According to NBC News, Gloria said in Spanish, "I hope God forgives [Aguilar] and that she repents."
But this apology would not make up for their loss, Vanessa's sister Mayra Guillén told reporters outside the courthouse. "Nothing will ever bring back my sister," Mayra said.
What happened to Vanessa Guillén?
Vanessa went missing from the Texas military base, formerly known as Fort Hood, on April 22, 2020, leaving behind her wallet and keys in an armory room controlled by U.S. Army Specialist Aaron Robinson. At the time, her family expressed concern, citing the fact that Vanessa had recently been sexually harassed on the base, according to previous Oxygen.com reporting.
As police began searching for the 20-year-old, they spoke with Robinson, who claimed to have last seen Vanessa heading to a parking lot after working in the armory room. Three soldiers would corroborate his claims, though Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, the Army’s provost marshal, would say in September 2020 that their accounts were inaccurate.
Authorities later found remains in Bell County, Texas in late June. Using dental records and DNA, investigators confirmed the dismembered body was indeed Vanessa's.
Investigators noticed that Robinson had called Aguilar multiple times that night, even though he said that he had been with her the night of the murder. When they questioned Aguilar, she alleged that Robinson had called to her to confess to murdering a woman with a hammer, Oxygen.com previously reported. She said that she then helped him dismember Vanessa and burn the remains before disposing of them near a lake.
Though Robinson was under surveillance throughout the course of the investigation, he wasn't officially detained and escaped the base after seeing reports of Vanessa's body being found. As police closed in on him, Robinson fatally shot himself in the head on July 1.
The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act
The Guillén family said that Robinson was not the military member who had sexually harassed Vanessa and accused the military of not doing enough to protect soldiers. In an effort to prevent further harm to other individuals, they worked with lawmakers to pass the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act in January 2021, which reformed the way the military responds to reports of sexual harassment.
Though Gloria Guillén wishes that more was done sooner to protect her daughter, she said, "A new generation of young people will be protected because of my daughter's tragic death," according to NBC News.
The Guillén Family Sues the Military
The Guillén family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the military and is seeking $35 million in damages.
“The army refused to accept that there was any sexual harassment involved since the very [beginning], claiming that sexual harassment was not criminal therefore no investigation was going to be done,” Guillén’s sister, Mayra Guillén, wrote in the lawsuit. “We refused to that answer and kept claiming for justice alongside our attorney Natalie Khawam."
"Two more investigations were done, and finally after pushing for months, the Army finally accepted that Vanessa had been sexually harassed on more than one occasion," she added. "The criminal investigation is still ongoing, we await trial.”
A trial date has not been set.