The lawyer representing the family of a missing 20-year-old soldier said they believe the human remains found this week are that of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, and that one of her superiors killed himself on Tuesday when approached by authorities.
A second civilian suspect — the estranged wife of a former soldier from Fort Hood, Texas — is currently in custody in the Bell County Jail awaiting charges by civilian authorities, Army officials announced on Wednesday.
Guillen’s family is calling for a congressional inquiry into the Army’s handling of the investigation into Guillen’s disappearance. The 20-year-old small arms repairer with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment was last seen on April 22 in the parking lot of her regiment’s engineer squadron headquarters at Fort Hood.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command said on Wednesday that a “junior soldier from Fort Hood” who fled the post late Tuesday killed himself in Killeen, Texas. When law enforcement agents trying to locate the man approached the suspect, he “displayed a weapon and took his own life,” an Army news release states.
Service officials said on Tuesday that they found partial human remains near the Leon River about 30 miles outside Fort Hood. The remains have been sent to a forensic anthropologist for analysis, though no official confirmation on the identity of the remains has been completed.
Guillen’s family members made emotional pleas for justice during Wednesday’s press conference in Washington, D.C.
“How could this happen while she was on duty?” Lupe Guillen, the soldier’s sister, asked. “… I want justice and I want answers because my sister did not do this to herself.”
“If this could happen to my sister, it could happen to other service women and men.”
Natalie Khawam with the Whistleblower Law Firm, who is representing Guillen’s family, said the soldier reported to her family and friends that she was being sexually harassed by a superior. Guillen didn’t report it with her command out of fear of reprisal, Khawam said.
That’s why they’re pushing lawmakers to create a system for military victims of sexual assault and harassment to have a channel outside their chain of command where they can report allegations of wrongdoing.
“This has to be fixed,” she said. “The system is broken.”
She also said Army officials haven’t done enough to keep Guillen’s family informed of the investigation. They’ve instead learned new information from media reports, Khawam said. They want a congressional investigation to review what is happening at Fort Hood, she said.
Chris Grey, an Army CID spokesman, said the agency has “made significant progress in this tragic situation.”
“[We] are doing everything possible to get to the truth and bring answers to the family of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen,” Grey said in a statement.
The Army has launched an investigation into the claims that Guillen was sexually harassed before she disappeared. The service publicized the offer of a $25,000 reward for credible information on the soldier’s disappearance.
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