Remains found in Texas last week have been confirmed to be those of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen, who is thought to have been killed by a soldier who later died by suicide, the military said Monday.
“I lack the words to make sense of this tragic loss,” Fort Hood’s deputy commanding general, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, said at a news conference.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command determined that the remains found Tuesady near the Leon River in Bell County were those of Guillen, 20, using DNA samples. Efflandt said that Guillen’s family was notified Sunday.
Guillen was last seen April 22. A suspect in her killing, E-4 Specialist Aaron Robinson, fled the base and died by suicide early Wednesday as law enforcement agencies tried to make contact with him, officials have said.
A woman described as Robinson’s boyfriend, Cecily Aguilar, 22 of Killeen, has been charged and is accused of helping Robinson dispose of Guillen’s body.
Aguilar appeared in court via video conference Monday and when asked if she understood the charges against her replied: “Yeah, sure,” NBC affiliate KCEN reported.
She faces one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Manske set a preliminary hearing for July 14 when bail for Aguilar could be considered.
Aguilar’s public defender chose not to comment, according to KCEN.
According to a criminal complaint, Aguilar told investigators that Robinson told her that he killed a female soldier by hitting her on the head with a hammer on April 22 at Fort Hood.
Robinson allegedly later enlisted Aguilar to help him get rid of her body at a remote site in Bell County, near Fort Hood, officials said.
Guillen was promoted from private first class to specialist last week due to her time in service.
An attorney for Guillen’s family has said that Guillen reported sexual harassment to her family and fellow soldiers at the base.
Guillen’s sister, Mayra, previously told NBC’s “Dateline” that Guillen never identified the person who allegedly harassed her and never reported the incidents to the Army’s sexual harassment and prevention program.
Robinson was a suspect in Guillen’s disappearance but he “was not involved” in the investigation looking into the sexual harassment allegations, CID Special Agent Damon Phelps has said.
Efflandt said that the military would complete its ongoing investigation into sexual harassment and take action based on those findings.
“Every person who raises their right hand to serve their family and their country in uniform deserves to be safe and treated with dignity and respect,” Efflandt said. He said that anyone who is the victim of harassment or assault should come forward.
Efflandt also said that he would continue to seek outside assistance and review “to ensure any shortcomings indicated during this troubling time are thoroughly identified and addressed.”
An attorney for Guillen’s family, Natalie Khawam, has said that Guillen lost her life “because the system is broken.” They want Congress to take action.