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Vanessa Guillen Case Went Cold Because Soldiers Mistakenly Gave Murder Suspect an Incorrect Alibi: Army

Time was a major point of contention in the search for missing Fort Hood Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen. Her family criticized the Army in her April 2020 disappearance, critiquing them for the pace of the case. Military officials gave their side of the story in an upcoming episode of 20/20. They said that authorities quickly had Guillen’s alleged killer Specialist Aaron David Robinson on their radar, but three soldiers unintentionally gave an alibi that took the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command away from the suspect.

“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 said. This pretty much gave an “instant alibi” to the suspect.

Spc. Vanessa Guillen

Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, who leads the CID, said that the three soldiers saw Guillen smoking by a tree outside the arms room. The time they gave indicated she had already left the room. But McCarthy said that the three “had not really known the correct time of when she had actually departed and headed to the parking lot.” He added, “The trail went cold for about a month.”

Judging by the official account, the complicating factor was the lack of cameras at the parking lot or by the arms room.

Guillen, who received a posthumous promotion from Private First Class to Specialist, went missing April 22, the U.S. Army said. There was initially no public sign of her whereabouts. That changed on June 30, when contractors working on a fence found human remains by the Leon River in Belton, Texas, according to federal investigators. At the time, Robinson had been confined to his barracks.

Martin told 20/20 that media coverage of the findings served as a “tipping point” for Robinson to run away. Officials say the suspect fled past his escort, and left Fort Hood for the city of Killeen. He fatally shot himself in the head when confronted by law enforcement, officials said.

“So how does a guy disappear like that?” said attorney Natalie Khawam, a lawyer for Guillen’s family. “Run off base. No one can see him on foot. And then how does he find a gun? The questions I have just will never end.”

Now the only person alive with supposed first-hand knowledge is Cecily Aguilar, who authorities described as Robinson’s girlfriend and the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier. Federal prosecutors charged her, saying she helped Robinson hide Guillen’s body. They claim she initially lied to them about her and her boyfriend’s involvement in the disappearance, but she confessed after the discovery of the remains. She allegedly said Robinson told her that he struck a female solder in the head multiple times with a hammer.

Officials are not just citing her word for it. Evidence includes suspicious phone data, and a conversation the couple allegedly had after Guillen’s remains were found. From the Aguilar complaint:

SPC Robinson texted Aguilar pictures of the news articles advising of recovered human remains. In a later controlled telephone call, SPC Robinson advised, “baby they found pieces, they found pieces”. This was referring to the human remains recovered near the Leon River.

According to authorities, two witnesses claimed to see Robinson on April 22 pulling a large, wheeled “tough box” that seemed very heavy out of the arms room. He put it in his vehicle and drove away, these people said in the official story.

Aguilar pleaded not guilty on July 14 in her evidence tampering case, according to records viewed by Law&Crime.

Guillen’s family said she faced sexual harassment before her death and disappearance. McCarthy told 20/20 that they have found no motive for the killing.

[Image of Guillen via Army Criminal Investigative Command]

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