Vanessa Guillen: Timeline offers look at tragedy and legacy of Ft. Hood soldier

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Friday, August 14, 2020
Family of Vanessa Guillen believes dead suspect tied to her disappearance
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: How has the military handled Vanessa Guillen's case? What does her family know about the suspects in her disappearance? Hit play to hear their answers.

The investigation into the disappearance of 20-year-old Vanessa Guillen, an Army soldier from Houston, has raised several questions, mainly what happened to her?

Vanessa has been missing since April 22. She grew up in Houston, Texas, graduated from Cesar Chavez High School, played soccer, and loved the Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny.

Lupe, Vanessa's sister, said all Vanessa wanted to do since she was 10 was join the military. "She signed a contract with the Army to protect and serve the country, yet look how they treated her," Lupe said.

This is what we know about her case since first hearing of her disappearance months ago.

April 22

Vanessa was last seen on April 22 at 1 p.m. in the parking lot of her Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment.

Her car keys, barracks room key, ID and wallet were found in the armory room where she was working earlier in the day, but her cell phone has not been recovered.

A reward of up to $15,000 was offered for information leading to her whereabouts.

ORIGINAL STORY: Extensive search underway for Fort Hood soldier from Houston missing since April

April 30

Vanessa's sister, Mayra Guillen, spoke to the media, saying it was unlike her to disappear

"At this point, I just hope someone comes with a concrete answer. They can tell us, I don't know. Something, anything, but something concrete, not just 'We're working on it, we're working on it.' There has to be something," Mayra said.

June 10

Vanessa's family members spoke again, saying they believed she was still alive.

"From the bottom of my heart I strongly believe my sister is alive. That whoever is keeping her hostage is doing it for a reason, because they know that at this point if we find her deceased, it's going to be much worse and I just hope that they are keeping her okay," her sister Mayra said.

Vanessa's older sister criticized investigators for what she called a lack of information about the case.

They also called for transparency from Fort Hood investigators, claiming that other soldiers have disappeared from the base before.

June 14

Celebrities, including Houston rapper Baby Bash and Mexican-American film actress Salma Hayek, began to raise awareness for Vanessa.

Hayek, who has 15 million followers on Instagram, posted about Guillen on her page.

While Bash vowed to add $5,000 for information leading to Guillen. By June 16, the reward has been raised to $50,000 after an additional $25,000 from LULAC.

READ MORE: Reward increased to $50,000 for missing Fort Hood soldier

June 17

Army officials tried to dispel social media rumors linking the Houston-area private to another soldier who went missing in August 2019.

Investigators said they had no credible information connecting Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales' case to Guillen's. Sadly, Morales' remains were found in a field several miles from Fort Hood, his mother told ABC13.

His family is now fighting for a military funeral after the U.S. Army listed his disappearance as a desertion.

"He was NOT AWOL or a deserter. He was murdered," Wedel-Morales' mother, Kim Wedel wrote in a Facebook post. "He deserves all honors and respect due to a soldier."

Foul play is suspected in Morales' death.

FULL STORY: Family of Fort Hood soldier whose remains found in Killeen wants military funeral

June 18

The search intensified as allegations of sexual harassment surfaced from Vanessa's family.

Vanessa's family and their attorney said that, prior to her disappearance, she confided in her mother and friends about being sexually harassed on the military base.

Attorney Natalie Khawam said she's discovered at least two alleged incidents of sexual harassment -- a superior walking in on Vanessa showering and another verbally assaulting Vanessa with vulgar remarks in Spanish. Khawam said she's worried about how this case might turn out. She said Vanessa told loved ones she didn't want to report the sexual harassment out of fear of retaliation.

June 20

The search for Vanessa nears two months after the discovery of Gregory Morales' remains.

"Thank god it is not my sister," Mayra tweeted in Spanish.

June 22

A Fort Hood deputy commander spoke for the first time about Vanessa's disappearance.

"We want to bring Vanessa home as efficiently and as rapidly as possible. And towards that end, I'm asking for your assistance," Fort Hood Deputy Commander Major General Scott Efflandt said in a video. "We need to bring Vanessa back to her Army family and to bring her back to her family, and we won't stop this effort until we're successful."

June 23

According to Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, foul play is suspected in Vanessa's disappearance.

"As we have stated from the day we opened a very extensive investigation on 23 April, we have not ruled anything in or out and are looking at all possibilities," read the statement. "At this point, and after the results of investigative information that has been developed in the last few days, we suspect foul play in the disappearance of PFC Vanessa Guillen."

WATCH: 'I'm praying for her to be found alive.' Vanessa Guillen's younger sister, Lupe, speaks about the missing soldier from Houston

June 25

Texas EquuSearch temporarily suspended its search for Vanessa as it moved to a different location, but continued the search shortly after once they learned of new information from investigators in Killeen.

June 27

After more than two months of searching, the U.S. Army compiled a list of FAQs about Vanessa's case. It also posted a missing person's announcement on their website in an attempt to spread awareness.

Texas EquuSearch crews received a tip and moved their search to Coryell County. Part of the Fort Hood installations lies within Coryell County.

Witnesses also reported finding unidentified remains in a field in Killeen, Texas, on Saturday evening, according to police.

KWTX-TV said the discovery was found within walking distance of the site where investigators found soldier Gregory Wedel-Morales' remains on June 19.

June 30

Human remains were found in an area near the Leon River, where a previous search was conducted. Texas EquuSearch founder Tim Miller told ABC13 he believes they belong to Vanessa.

Vanessa's family announced they would be going to Washington to demand a Congressional investigation into her disappearance.

July 1

A person of interest in a Fort Hood case died by suicide Wednesday morning when authorities tried to make contact with them.

Later in the morning, officials confirmed the person of interest was tied to Vanessa's disappearance.

The man was a junior soldier who fled from Fort Hood late Tuesday. Officials say a civilian suspect arrested in Vanessa's case is the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier. She is currently in custody in the Bell County Jail and will be charged.

WATCH: "They lied to our faces. They didn't keep my sister safe. My sister is a human too." A sister of Vanessa Guillen makes a heartbreaking statement you need to watch for yourself

WATCH: "They lied to our faces. They didn't keep my sister safe. My sister is a human too." A sister of Vanessa Guillen makes a heartbreaking statement you need to watch for yourself.

On this day, the Army promoted Vanessa to Specialist, despite her missing status.

July 3

Details were released that the deceased suspect in Vanessa's case, Aaron Robinson, allegedly admitted to civilian suspect Cecily Aguilar that he transferred a woman's body off the base to a remote site in Bell County.

"Subsequently, Robinson enlisted the help of Aguilar in disposing of the dead female's body," read a news release issued by the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney's Office - Western District of Texas.

According to the criminal complaint, on June 21, what appeared to be the burned remains of a plastic tote or tough box were found in an area near where Robinson's phone pinged. No remains were found that day.

Aaron David Robinson, 20, died by suicide when authorities made contact with him, according to the Army.

Around 1 p.m. on June 30, contractors working on a fence near the Leon River discovered what appeared to be human remains. When authorities searched the area, they found scattered human remains that appeared to be placed into a concrete-like substance and buried.

According to investigators, Aguilar admitted that Robinson told her he killed a female soldier by striking her in the head with a hammer multiple times at his arms room while on post on April 22, the same day Vanessa went missing.

The criminal complaint said Robinson then placed the female soldier's body in a box and moved the box to a location near the Leon River.

Aguilar told officials that sometime between the evening of April 22 and the early morning of April 23, Robinson picked her up at the gas station where she worked and took her to an area near the Leon River and a bridge. A box with wheels and handles was already at the site.

Aguilar said Robinson walked her over to the woods, opened the box, and she saw a dead woman inside. Aguilar later told investigators she "recognized the deceased whom she helped Robinson mutilate and dispose of" as Vanessa.

The complaint said Aguilar and Robinson then used a hatchet or ax and a machete-type knife to dismember the body. They allegedly tried to burn the body, and placed the remains in three separate holes and covered them up.

July 4

Hundreds of people gathered for a march for Vanessa in downtown Houston.

The immigrant family advocacy group FIEL organized the march in Vanessa's name.

"Me and other people felt very strongly about the situation," said Andrew Rodriguez.

Rodriguez teamed up with FIEL to march alongside the Guillen family.

July 6

The Army identified Vanessa's remains, her family's lawyer said in a statement Sunday evening.

The family's lawyer, Khawam, said the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division told her that Robinson bludgeoned 20-year-old soldier Vanessa with a hammer at Fort Hood and later dismembered her and buried the remains in the woods.

Khawam said she met with investigators from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division on Wednesday evening and was told the other soldier cleaned up the area where Vanessa was killed, placed her body in a container and wheeled her out to his car.

July 10

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy has agreed to appoint a panel to investigate how Vanessa's case has been handled at a Texas military post, according to Texas Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia.

Garcia made the announcement along with leaders from the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC. The group met with McCarthy earlier in the day to demand the independent investigation.

McCarthy confirmed the news in a post on Twitter.

"I am directing an independent & comprehensive review of the command climate and culture," McCarthy wrote. "We have to listen in order to create enduring change."

On the same day, investigators found information in Vanessa's case that shows she may have been harassed, said U.S. Army officials.

In June, Guillen's family made allegations that Vanessa was sexually harassed while at Fort Hood. Her family and their attorney said that prior to her disappearance, she confided in her mother and friends about being sexually harassed on the military base.

Now, investigators are saying information was found that points to some harassment, but the harassment was not sexual.

This came after earlier in July, Fort Hood officials pushed back on allegations that Vanessa was sexually harassed and assaulted prior to her disappearance in April.

July 14

Vanessa's family attorney, Khawam, told an ABC News reporter that she was set to meet with President Donald Trump on July 29 in Washington.

The meeting was scheduled the day before Vanessa's family planned to peacefully protest near the White House on July 30.

The announcement came moments before a judge in Texas denied the release of 22-year-old civilian suspect Aguilar in federal court.

Aguilar is charged with helping to hide and destroy the body of the murdered Fort Hood Army Specialist.

Appearing by Zoom from the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco, Aguilar wore a grey and black striped prison uniform and an orange face mask that matched her dyed orange hair, styled in pigtails.

WATCH: Cecily Aguilar mumbles responses in court

Cecily Aguilar gave additional details to FBI agents about how she reportedly burned and buried Vanessa Guillen

Her attorney, federal public defender Lewis Gainor, appeared from a courtroom along with US Attorney Mark Frazier.

Aguilar pleaded not guilty to all three federal counts - two counts of tampering with documents or proceedings and one count of conspiracy to tamper with documents or proceedings.

July 21

It was announced that family members of Vanessa in Mexico will be able to travel to Houston to attend the funeral of the Fort Hood soldier.

Guillen's grandmother and six of her aunts and uncles obtained humanitarian visas to travel to Houston for the service.

The Secretaria del Zacatecano Migrante shared photos through Facebook saying they were grateful for the coordination efforts between the American and Mexican governments to make this trip possible.

Congresswoman Garcia said she worked with the Mexican ambassador to help the Guillen family say their final farewell to the Army specialist who was murdered on Fort Hood.

July 30

During a meeting between Vanessa's family members and President Trump at the White House, the president told them that they have his support and that he will personally help with funeral expenses.

"If you need help with the funeral financially, I will help," the president told the family in the Oval Office.

Before the meeting, family members expressed their purpose on taking Vanessa's story to the top.

Hit play to go inside the Oval Office where the family of Ft. Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen sought legislative support from Pres. Trump. It turns out, they got a lot more than that.

"The president is talking to me. I'm not nervous to speak to him because this has to stop. I don't want to hear another woman or man was found dead at Fort Hood. I don't want to hear another woman or man was sexually assaulted, abused, or raped," said Lupe Guillen, Vanessa's sister.

Ahead of the meeting with the president, several dozen demonstrators joined the family at a rally calling for Fort Hood officials to be held accountable for Guillen's death and for better investigations of harassment in the military.

"Fort Hood is supposed to be held accountable. Leadership has to be held accountable," said Lupe, while speaking to a crowd outside the U.S. Capitol.

Supporters marched from the rally at the U.S. Capitol to the White House.

Vanessa's family proposed the #IAmVanessaGuillen bill, which would let service members file sexual assault and harassment claims to a third party, rather than their chain of command.

The bill comes after hundreds of Fort Hood service members have come forward with their experience on the base.

August 10

Vanessa's family announced a memorial service will be held Aug. 14 at the high school she attended in Houston.

According to the family's attorney, the Guillen family will host a private funeral on Saturday, Aug. 15, and Vanessa will be laid to rest at Forest Park Lawndale Funeral Home in southeast Houston.

Khawam said the memorial service will be held on Friday, Aug. 14, at Chavez High School's soccer field beginning at noon. The memorial service is open to the public, and will end at 8 p.m.


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