Murder of Vanessa Guillén

The m*rder of Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year-old United States Army soldier, occurred inside an armory at Fort Hood, Texas, on April 22, 2020. She was bludgeoned to death by another soldier, Aaron David Robinson. Guillén had been missing for over two months when some of her dismembered remains were discovered buried along the Leon River on June 30. Upon learning of the discovery, Robinson fled Fort Hood and fatally shot himself when law enforcement attempted to apprehend him in nearby Killeen, Texas.

Cecily Aguilar, a local woman identified as Robinson’s girlfriend by authorities, was taken into custody. She is alleged to have aided him in dismembering and burying Guillén’s body. On July 2, 2020, Aguilar was charged with one federal count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence. Subsequently, on July 13, 2021, she was indicted on eleven counts by a federal grand jury. On November 29, 2022, Aguilar pleaded guilty to accessory to m*rder after the fact and three counts of making a false statement. She was sentenced to the maximum of 30 years on August 14, 2023, for her involvement in concealing Guillén’s m*rder.

People involved

Vanessa Guillén, aged 20, hailed from Houston, Texas. Born on September 30, 1999, at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, she was the daughter of Rogelio and Gloria Guillén, who originally came from Zacatecas State, Mexico. Vanessa had five siblings. She attended Hartman Middle School and, as per her family, graduated from César E. Chávez High School in 2018, ranking in the top 15% of her class. Known for her passion for soccer, jogging, sports, and learning, Vanessa joined the United States Army in June 2018. She underwent training as a 91F, specializing in Small Arms and Artillery Repair. Vanessa was posthumously promoted from Private First Class to the rank of Specialist on July 1, 2020.

Aaron David Robinson, aged 20, hailed from Calumet City, Illinois, a southern suburb of Chicago. He enlisted in the United States Army in October 2017 and trained as a 12B, focusing on Combat Engineering. At the time of his death, he held the rank of E4 Specialist.

Cecily Anne Aguilar, aged 22, was identified by authorities as the girlfriend of Robinson and the estranged wife of another soldier.


Vanessa Guillén was stationed at Fort Hood, a U.S. Army base located in Bell County, Texas, spanning approximately 340 square miles (880 km2). Fort Hood is home to III Corps and the First Cavalry Division. Guillén was last seen around 1:00 p.m. on April 22, 2020, in the parking lot of her unit, the Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment (3CR). Her car keys, identification card, bank card, and barracks key were discovered inside the armory where she worked. Her family suspected foul play in her disappearance.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and local law enforcement agencies in Bell County, Killeen, and Belton. Other agencies involved included the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the United States Marshals Service, and the Texas Ranger Division. Multiple units from Fort Hood, including 3CR, initiated search efforts in the vicinity within two weeks of her disappearance.

Prior to her disappearance, Guillén had informed her family about being se*ually harassed by an unnamed sergeant at Fort Hood. She mentioned that complaints filed by other female soldiers against the sergeant had been disregarded. Guillén’s mother urged her to report the harassment, but Guillén hesitated, fearing retaliation against her family. She believed she could handle the situation herself. In early June, Guillén’s family expressed dissatisfaction with the Army’s handling of the investigation, feeling they were being kept uninformed. This led to a protest outside Fort Hood’s gates on June 13, 2020. While CID found no evidence of assault, they suspected foul play in Guillén’s disappearance.

On June 17, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) added a $25,000 reward to the existing $25,000 reward announced by the Army for information leading to the discovery of Vanessa Guillén.

On June 23, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, representing the district where Guillén’s family resides, met with Fort Hood officials to discuss the ongoing search efforts.

Authorities reported conducting more than 300 interviews and spending over 10,000 hours investigating Guillén’s disappearance.

On July 27, 2020, Guillén’s mother, who had previously been detained for illegal immigration, was granted parole in place by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with the assistance of Garcia and immigration attorney Luis Gomez Alfaro.

Discovery of remains

On June 30, 2020, Army investigators were summoned after contractors discovered partial human remains along the Leon River in Belton. This discovery occurred despite a prior search of the area by Texas Rangers, detectives, and cadaver dogs on June 20, prompted by the finding of a burn mound nearby. Investigators speculated that the remains, initially buried under concrete, had been unearthed by wildlife. Tim Miller, Director of Texas EquuSearch, described it as the most elaborate burial site he had ever encountered.

Later that evening, around 8:30 p.m., authorities re-interviewed Cecily Anne Aguilar, a local woman and the estranged wife of a soldier at Fort Hood. Aguilar was identified as the girlfriend of Aaron David Robinson, an enlisted soldier ranked as a specialist, who was one of the last individuals known to have seen Guillén on the day of her disappearance and had previously been questioned by investigators.

Aguilar informed the police that Robinson had confessed to her about killing a female soldier at Fort Hood. At the request of law enforcement, Aguilar made a controlled phone call to Robinson, during which he stated, “Baby, they found pieces.” She also sent Robinson several news articles, to which he did not deny anything. According to a criminal complaint filed in the Western District Court of Texas, Aguilar allegedly assisted Robinson in dismembering and disposing of Guillén’s body on April 22, 2020, after Robinson informed her that he had fatally bludgeoned Guillén with a hammer inside the armory.

Arrest and motive

On the evening of June 30, Robinson escaped custody while being guarded by an unarmed soldier from his unit and fled Fort Hood upon learning of the discovery of remains. He had been detained by his unit on the pretext of violating COVID-19 quarantine regulations at the request of a CID agent. In the early hours of July 1, Killeen police located Robinson and attempted to approach him, but he produced a handgun and took his own life before being apprehended.

Aguilar was subsequently arrested by Texas Rangers and held at the Bell County Jail. On July 2, Bell County officials announced that Aguilar would be transferred to federal custody, as she was charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas. Assistant United States Attorneys Mark Frazier and Greg Gloff are prosecuting the case on behalf of the federal government.
On May 24, 2022, the Texas Department of Public Safety released a report revealing Aguilar’s explanation for Robinson’s actions. According to the report, Guillén had seen a picture of Aguilar on Robinson’s cellphone lock screen, prompting him to fear repercussions for violating Army fraternization rules. Aguilar stated that Robinson hit Guillén in the head with a hammer out of concern for the potential consequences of their relationship.


  • April 22, 2020: According to law enforcement, Robinson m*rders Guillén with a hammer inside an armory. He then transports her body from Fort Hood using a trunk and receives assistance from Aguilar in dismembering the remains before burying them along the Leon River.
  • April 23: CID is notified by a commissioned officer in the 3CR Provost Marshal that then-PFC Guillén is reported missing.
  • April 24: CID issues a missing soldier letter for Guillén. Fort Hood Military Police issue a Be on the Lookout (BOLO) advisory to surrounding law enforcement agencies. Military personnel, along with civilian and military police, commence a search.
  • April 26: According to law enforcement tracking of cellphone data, Robinson and Aguilar return to the Leon River site and further break down Guillén’s remains.
  • April 28: CID interviews Robinson for the first time.
  • April 30: Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy makes a statement in a COVID-19 press briefing regarding Guillén’s disappearance, emphasizing the Army’s ongoing search efforts.
  • May 18: Two witnesses are interviewed who observed Robinson struggling with a “tough box” outside of the armory.
  • May 19: Robinson consents to a search of his cell phone by law enforcement using a Universal Forensic Extraction Device product.
  • June 19: Aguilar is interviewed for the first time.
  • June 21: Cell phone data from both Robinson and Aguilar lead law enforcement officials to an area near the Leon River. Law enforcement officials locate the burned lid of a Pelican transport case but fail to find a body.
  • June 30: Contractors working on a fence near the Leon River discover partial human remains, later confirmed to be Guillén, and notify law enforcement. CID and partner agencies discover human remains. Later that day, Aguilar is interviewed again and confesses to law enforcement officials about the killing. Robinson flees Fort Hood.
  • July 1: In the early hours, shortly after midnight, Robinson kills himself when approached by law enforcement in Killeen, Texas.
  • July 2: FBI formally submits a criminal complaint for Aguilar. Fort Hood and CID hold a press briefing.
  • July 5: Remains are confirmed to be Vanessa Guillén.
  • July 10: U.S. Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy announces a “full independent review” of the case.
  • July 30, 2020: Vanessa Guillén’s family meets with President Donald Trump, who assures them that the case will be fully and independently reviewed.
  • July 13, 2021: Cecily Aguilar is indicted on 11 counts relating to the death of Vanessa Guillen by a federal grand jury.
  • November 29, 2022: Cecily Aguilar, aged 24, pleads guilty in a federal court in Waco, Texas, to one count of accessory to m*rder after the fact and three counts of making a false statement, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
  • December 8, 2022: Following the independent review, McCarthy announces in a Pentagon press briefing that 14 “senior officers” from corps to squad level are disciplined for “leadership failures.”

Later development

Guillén’s family advocated for justice and urged improvements in the handling of claims of se*ual harassment within the military. Guillén’s mother publicly shared her belief that Robinson’s death was orchestrated by authorities as part of a cover-up involving senior military members, citing witnesses who heard two shots at the time of his death.

On July 10, 2020, Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy announced a “full independent review” of Guillén’s case.

On July 30, 2020, Guillén’s family met with President Donald Trump to discuss her m*rder.

On December 8, 2020, McCarthy disclosed the findings of the investigation, which resulted in disciplinary action against 14 U.S. commanders and leaders at Fort Hood due to multiple “leadership failures.” The investigation revealed a “permissive environment for se*ual assault and se*ual harassment” at Fort Hood. Among those disciplined were Major General Scott L. Efflandt, Colonel Ralph Overland, and Command Sergeant Major Bradley Knapp. Major General Jeffery Broadwater and Command Sergeant Major Thomas C. Kenny were suspended pending a new investigation into the 1st Cavalry Division’s command climate and program for addressing se*ual harassment and assault. While disciplinary measures were also taken against soldiers and leaders below brigade level, their names were not released as per Army policy.

During the December 8 Pentagon press conference, McCarthy stated that Guillén’s m*rder prompted a reevaluation of systems, policies, and self-awareness within the Army.

Following an investigation into the 1st Cavalry Division’s command climate, Broadwater relinquished command of the Division to Major General John B. Richardson in July 2021. Broadwater was subsequently assigned as deputy commander of V Corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

On January 26, 2022, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order establishing se*ual harassment as a specific offense under the UCMJ.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article M*rder of Vanessa Guillén, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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