By Miguel Gutierrez Jr. and Jolie McCullough
July 6, 2020
In major Texas cities, protesters and mourners took to the streets over the weekend as remains found near Fort Hood were confirmed by family to belong to missing Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén.
Guillén, 20, had been missing from the Central Texas Army post since April. The remains of a body found in a nearby shallow grave last week pushed the case into the national spotlight, according to The Washington Post. On Saturday and Sunday, protesters in Houston — Guillén’s hometown — criticized the speed of the investigation into Guillén’s disappearance and called for the military to reform its investigations into sexual assault allegations, the Houston Chronicle reported. The soldier had reportedly told her family before her disappearance that she had been harassed on base, and the key suspect in her death had reportedly been suspected of harassing her.
Demonstrators and mourners marched through the streets and lit candles in Houston, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso on Sunday, holding “Justice for Vanessa” signs and U.S. and Mexican flags for the Army specialist, who was Mexican American.
Last week, after the remains were found, the U.S. Department of Justice said the main suspect in Guillén’s death, fellow Fort Hood soldier Aaron Robinson, killed himself when confronted by police. A criminal complaint alleged that Robinson, 20, admitted to another woman that he killed a female soldier by bludgeoning her with a hammer in April and then took her body to a remote spot in Bell County. The woman, Cecily Aguilar, 22, faces a federal charge of conspiracy to tamper with evidence. She’s accused of helping mutilate and dispose of Guillén’s body.
A lawyer for Guillén’s family told the Chronicle she gave Robinson’s name to the Army earlier, after learning he may have previously harassed her. Fort Hood officials said in June they had launched an investigation into Guillén’s sexual harassment claims, but protesters said the actions were too slow and not enough. They called for a sweeping cultural change, noting the military’s history of unchecked sexual violence, the Chronicle reported.