As Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen’s grieving family visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday to push for legislation to prevent military sexual assault, the Texas woman accused of helping dismember the Fort Hood soldier’s body last April asked a federal judge to throw out her confession.
Cecily Ann Aguilar’s defense team has asked U.S. District Judge Alan Albright to suppress a confession that she helped her boyfriend, Spc. Aaron Robinson, dismember and dispose of Guillen’s remains near the Leon River in Bell County, saying it was illegally obtained by local authorities.
The main argument in Wednesday’s motion focuses on Aguilar not being read her rights by civilian investigators, but the document also offers a more detailed glimpse into a chaotic 24 hours leading to Robinson’s death and Aguilar’s arrest.
Aguilar is charged with conspiracy to tamper with Guillen’s body, tampering with Guillen’s body and hiding it near the river, according to the defense motion filed Wednesday.
Robinson — accused of bludgeoning Guillen with a hammer at Fort Hood on April 22 — was never charged because he fatally shot himself on July 1 as officers tried to detain him for questioning, according to Killeen police. However, video footage of the incident has yet and may not ever be released because Texas law allows the video to be sealed if no charge or a conviction happens in the case.
On June 30, 2020, workers building a fence near the Leon River in Bell County discovered what they believed to be human remains in a pile of burned rubble.
Tim Miller, founder of the civilian group EquuSearch, revealed after the discovery that his crew actually found the site of her remains on June 21 but that Army officials ignored his pleas for them to dig at the location.
The U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division later in the year was criticized by an independent panel that found CID agents assigned to solve crimes at Fort Hood had for years lacked enough experience and leadership to properly respond to cases like Guillen’s, leading to systemic violence on post.
Army leaders also fired or suspended 14 Fort Hood officials in December following several investigations into the post, including Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, whom Guillen’s family had accused of not adequately responding to their pleas to help find the 20-year-old soldier.
The Bell County sheriff’s office, after hearing of the fence workers’ discovery on June 30, sent two detectives to the site and confirmed that human remains were found. Fort Hood, the Army CID, Texas Rangers and the FBI were then called in to investigate.
In Wednesday’s motion, Aguilar’s defense said she was working at a Killeen convenience store on June 30 when police officers came into the business to ask her some questions. At this point, authorities believed she was involved in Guillen’s death.
Aguilar that day eventually tried to get onto Fort Hood when she was stopped by local police for more questioning, according to the motion. Aguilar said she knew she was not allowed on base, but was searching for a vehicle her estranged husband had left on post for her.
Aguilar was told multiple times to stop texting while she was talking to police and, when she continued texting, an officer took her phone away and she agreed to come into the station for questioning, the motion says.
Once at the station, Aguilar was not given her phone back and was brought into an interrogation room and questioned from 8:30 p.m. until 1 a.m., according to her defense lawyers.
The officers did not read Ms. Aguilar her Miranda rights at the beginning of the interrogation,” the motion said. “They did not tell her anything she said could be held against her in court. They did not say she had the right to an attorney during questioning. And they did not ask if she was willing to waive those rights.”
During the questioning, Aguilar told investigators that Robinson, whom she was dating while married, confessed to her that he had killed Guillen.
Aguilar also told investigators that Robinson took Guillen’s body off the post, picked Aguilar up from her work at a gas station and then showed the body to her. Aguilar said Robinson then made her help him dispose of the body, according to the motion.
Army officials have said Robinson and Aguilar tried disposing of her remains for multiple days.
Army officials, however, have still released few details about how Robinson evaded authorities on June 30 and killed himself in the wee hours of July 1.
Wednesday’s motion says local investigators listened in on several controlled calls with Aguilar and Robinson on June 30.
During one call, Robinson did not deny his involvement in the disappearance and death of Guillen. Robinson even texted Aguilar pictures of news articles about human remains being found. He also said during one call, “Baby, they found the pieces, they found the pieces.”
In a previous interview with ABC News, Army leaders said Robinson was placed in a room on Fort Hood with an unarmed escort at some point on June 30.
Army leaders said Robinson was not detained, but investigators were suspicious he was involved in Guillen’s disappearance.
Robinson ran away from base while he was being watched and somehow got ahold of a vehicle and a gun, according to Army leaders, the report said. However. Army leaders have yet to release any more information.
Aguilar during her questioning to police on June 30 told officers Robinson would try to escape and would shoot himself rather than be taken into custody, which was just hours before police say he took his own life.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the Guillen family attended a U.S. Senate committee hearing on sexual assault in the military. The family has maintained that Vanessa Guillen was repeatedly sexually harassed by multiple soldiers on post, including Robinson. However, Guillen told her family she was scared to report the abuse out of fear of retaliation.
Guillen’s case also led to an investigation into Fort Hood’s sexual harassment/assault response and prevention program, also known as SHARP. Investigators reported that Army leaders failed to address known problems, often leaving SHARP understaffed and in the hands of those not equipped to respond appropriately. As a result, the Central Texas post created a “permissive environment” that led to its culture of criminal behavior, investigators said.
Natalie Khawam, the Guillen family’s attorney, was one of several who testified during the hearing Wednesday, agreeing with the committee chair, U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that sexual assault in the military is an epidemic.
“There is such an injustice that has happened to our soldiers,” Khawam said on behalf of herself and the Guillen family. “Our soldiers deserved respect. Our soldiers deserve justice. We have to do this as a country. Not just members in the military, but all people.”
Spc. Vanessa Guillen’s family had driven to Washington also to attend a rally on Thursday to urge President Joe Biden and Congress to support the “I Am Vanessa Guillen Act,” which would allow for sexual assault cases among military members to be investigated and prosecuted by those outside of the victim’s and accused’s direct chain of command.
This article is written by Heather Osbourne from Austin American-Statesman and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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