Army investigators detained a fellow soldier in the killing of Specialist Vanessa Guillén just hours after her remains were found, but a series of missteps allowed the soldier to flee, then fatally shoot himself, according to an Army report released Friday that examined what went wrong in the high-profile murder investigation.
The revelation is part of a detailed report into the response to the murder, which has rocked the Army and sparked called for increased accountability. Among the findings are conclusions that Specialist Guillen was sexually harassed, but not by the soldier who the Army believes killed her, and that the suspected killer had also been accused of unrelated sexual harassment.
In both cases, the report concludes, leaders did not respond appropriately. In response, the Army announced on Friday, it has punished 21 soldiers and officers who failed to act.
“It was devastating to all of us,” Maj. Gen. Gene LeBoeuf said in a phone call with reporters. “We as an Army failed to protect Vanessa Guillén.”
Guillén, 20, was working at an armory at Fort Hood on April 22, 2020, when, according to a federal complaint, Specialist Aaron Robinson, 20, bludgeoned her with a hammer, removed her body from the post in a large cargo box, then dismembered and burned her remains. On Friday, Army leaders declined to discuss possible motives.
The family of Specialist Guillén said she had previously voiced concerns about sexual harassment at work, but never formally reported them. Army investigators said they found no evidence of sexual harassment.
Specialist Guillén was reported missing the next day. Thousands of soldiers searched for her in buildings, barracks, fields and training areas at Fort Hood. On June 30, her remains were found near the Leon River in Bell County, Texas.
Specialist Robinson was detained by the Army a short time later but escaped and a few hours later shot himself when confronted by the police. Authorities have charged his former girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, with helping to hide the body and impeding the investigation.