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‘I Am Vanessa Guillén’ Documentary Brings Renewed Attention To Fort Hood Murder
In the Netflix documentary "I Am Vanessa Guillén," the late soldier's family recalls the investigation into her murder and discusses how they're finding meaning in her death through activism.
It’s been two years since Vanessa Guillén's dismembered remains were found on the Fort Hood military base in Texas. Since then, a suspect has been apprehended — but the family continues to fight for justice for their daughter, whose life was cut short, allegedly by a fellow soldier, on April 22, 2020.
This journey to find purpose in Vanessa’s death has been chronicled in the documentary “I Am Vanessa Guillén,” streaming now on Netflix. The film features the family as they recall the day Vanessa went missing and how they coped with an unimaginable loss.
In some ways, Vanessa’s older sister, Mayra Guillén, believes their family will never find closure as the main suspect in the case, a fellow Army specialist named Aaron Robinson, 20, shot and killed himself as investigators moved to arrest him in connection with her death in July 2020.
One person, a woman identified as Robinson's girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, has been arrested and faces federal charges of tampering with evidence for allegedly helping Robinson dispose of Guillén's body. She has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Though Aguilar is behind bars, Mayra said their family was disappointed Robinson, who is believed to have murdered Vanessa, would never see his day in court.
“It was hard to accept in the beginning because you think justice means people are being held accountable, they go to jail and they serve their time,” she told NBC News. “This was completely different.”
As Aguilar awaits trial — jury selection is slated for Jan. 3, 2023, according to CBS affiliate KHOU — the Guillén family is seeking to hold the military accountable for their lack of response to Vanessa’s previous allegations of sexual harassment, which she reported to her supervisors prior to her death. In the documentary, the Guillén family recalls the apparent indifference that officers allegedly had when the family asked if Vanessa’s death might be connected to the accusations she made.
While it was later stated in an April 2021 report that Vanessa had reported two incidents of sexual harassment to supervisors, which were not dealt with, the military ultimately found that “no evidence indicates that this sexual harassment was in any way related to her death,” according to NBC News.
Still, the Guillén family believes that more should’ve been done to protect Vanessa, as well as other service members. They have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense, seeking damages of $35 million for sexual harassment, abuse, assault, rape, sodomy, and wrongful death, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by Oxygen.com in August.
The department now has three months left to respond, either by reaching a settlement or taking the case to a jury trial, reported NBC News.
Additionally, they have advocated for the passing of bills that will enforce a stricter protocol when it comes to sexual harassment, as well as improved "missing soldier" protocols. The Guilléns even met with then-President Donald Trump to discuss their concerns.
Though the bill wasn’t passed during Trump’s term, key elements of the "I Am Vanessa Guillén" bill were made into law in December 2021. And the family said they will continue to pursue the passage of improved protocols, with Mayra sharing that she’s interested in potentially making a run for office.
“If the time is right, and things just fall in place, I do see myself running for office hopefully in the near future,” she told NBC News. "I hate the way that things happened and how I ended up here in the first place, but I've learned so much over the last two years, and I'm sure we'll continue to learn so much more."
Christy Wegener, director of the “I am Vanessa Guillén” documentary, told NBC News that this isn't just a true-crime documentary, explaining, “We focused on the fact that this family was going through one of the hardest periods of their life, and they turned it into a movement to help the greater good.”