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U.S. Army investigators suspect foul play is involved in the disappearance of soldier Vanessa Guillen, according to a U.S. lawmaker.
Guillen, 20, was last seen on April 22 in a parking lot at the military base in Fort Hood, Texas, where she worked and lived; in the months since, her family have demanded answers. U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, appearing at a press conference with Guillen's family on Monday, said that Army investigators are now "convinced" that Guillen's disappearance involved foul play and they are currently following leads in the case.
"They are using the words now, foul play, and they are looking at potential criminal activity having occurred," Garcia said. "The question is who, what, and when. And we've been reassured that they're going to do everything they can. They will leave no stone unturned until they find Vanessa."
On the day of her disappearance, Guillen was working in an armory room; keys to her car and barracks room, as well as her identification card and wallet, were left behind, but she was nowhere to be found. During Monday's press conference, Guillen's family stated that she was not scheduled to work that day, but had been called in.
"I want justice and I want answers because they lied to our faces," one of Guillen's sisters said. "[They said that] Wednesday, April 22, 2020 was a work day. No, it wasn't. So who sent my sister to work?"
Guillen's family have maintained that she was experiencing sexual harassment at the hands of a sergeant before she disappeared. Her mother recounted her daughter telling her about the harassment, and stating that she no longer felt safe on the base. The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division Command said in a press release earlier this month that they found “no credible information or report” that Guillen was being sexually assaulted, but the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander announced on Thursday that they would be officially investigating those allegations.
Guillen's case has gained widespread attention, spawning protests and calls to action. Actress Salma Hayek promised to post the missing soldier's photo on her social media every day until she is found.
Garcia said on Monday that military officials supplied the family with a timeline of events on the day that she went missing, but that there are still questions. Investigators were able to use phone records and witnesses to pinpoint when Guillen was last seen, but there is no surveillance footage of the day, a fact which the Guillen family's attorney found strange.
Guillen's family also reportedly told military investigators that Guillen told them and others that a sergeant had recently followed her into a shower when she was naked.
"We suspect that person was her supervisor the same day after she was missing," attorney Natalie Khawam said. However, the military has refused to release the name of the supervisor Guillen was working with, or the names of any witnesses they have spoken to.
Adding to the family's concern, a "supervisor or sergeant" who was in charge of completing head counts in the barracks initially said in his report that everyone was accounted for, but has since admitted that he did not actually see Guillen, Garcia said.
Khawam said Monday that there are so many "gaps and holes" in what the Guillen family has been told that she will be demanding a congressional investigation.
Military officials did not attend Monday's press conference, but said in previous statements that they are working with multiple agencies, including the FBI, to search for Guillen.
The 3rd Cavalry Regiment Troopers have searched land and water, scouring riverbeds and combing through various training grounds in their search for Guillen, Fort Hood officials said in a press release last week.
“The 3rd Cavalry Regiment continues to aggressively search for Pfc. Vanessa Guillen and we will not stop until we find her,” 3rd Cavalry Regiment Commander Col. Ralph Overland said. “Our number one mission is to find Pfc. Vanessa Guillen. I’m laser focused on that. We are working with CID and law enforcement and we will not stop.”
Guillen's case has spawned numerous hashtags on social media, including #IAmVanessaGuillen, under which women who have experienced sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military have shared their stories.
"I think, really, that it is all those things - the family pressure, the social media pressure, my inquiries - all of those things have worked to bring more attention to this case," Garcia said. "But we don't want just attention, we want action, and we want results. And we will not stop until we find Vanessa."
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