The family of a slain U.S. Army soldier is suing the Department of the Army, saying authorities failed to protect her from her killer. Loved ones of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, 20, also say that authorities failed to properly address her claims of facing sexual abuse.
“Historically you couldn’t sue the DOD if you’re a victim of sexual harassment/assault due to the DOD’s broad misapplication of the Feres Doctrine, a 1950’s Supreme Court decision that never included or addressed sexual assault, yet the DOD continued to use that case to evade accountability,” Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam told CNN. “This week the 9th Circuit held that sexual assault is not incident to service, and therefore the Feres Doctrine should not apply to service members who are sexually assaulted.”
They seek $10 million for wrongful death and $25 million for personal injury.
— KHOU 11 News Houston (@KHOU) August 13, 2022
“From October 1, 2019, to April 22, 2020, SPC,” documents said. “Vanessa Guillen suffered mental anguish, fear, emotional distress, physical injury, and death as a result of sexual harassment, rape, sodomy, and physical assault.”
“Nothing is going to bring her back,” Vanessa’s sister Mayra Guillen said, according to KHOU. “I would truly wish to have her here than any of this, but this is where we are today.”
Authorities have said that Spc. Aaron David Robinson, 20, beat Guillen to death with a hammer on April 22, 2020 in Fort Hood, Texas. The slain soldier’s family has criticized higher ups for the months-long pace of the investigation.
Authorities said three soldiers accidentally gave Robinson an alibi, leading investigators away from the real killer.
“They filled out affidavits that said they had seen Vanessa at a different time from when she had actually departed the other arms room [controlled by Robinson],” Secretary of the U.S. Army Ryan McCarthy has reportedly said. This pretty much gave an “instant alibi” to the suspect.
Authorities argued Robinson wheeled Guillen’s body out of an arms room with a large “tough box,” and got the help of his girlfriend Cecily Ann Aguilar, 24, in burning the body. Contractors discovered the remains near the Leon River on June 30, 2020, authorities said.
Robinson was confined to his barracks around the time of the discovery, but he fled and died by suicide, authorities said. Army investigators have said there’s no evidence Robinson harassed her. Army authorities have said a “a superior noncommissioned officer in [Guillen’s] unit” harassed her and there’s no evidence she was sexually assaulted.
Guillen received a posthumous promotion from Private First Class to Specialist.
The criminal case against Aguilar is ongoing. She has pleaded not guilty to charges including tampering and being an accessory after the fact.
“As a matter of policy, the Army does not comment on ongoing litigation,” U.S. Army spokesman Sgt. Pablo Saez said, according to CNN on Saturday.
[Image via Army Criminal Investigative Command]
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