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The distraught family of missing Pfc. Vanessa Guillen has demanded a congressional investigation into Fort Hood’s handling of her disappearance. Human remains were discovered on June 30 believed to be connected to the missing soldier’s case.
Guillen, 20, was last seen in the parking lot of her barracks at Fort Hood on April 22. She was last seen wearing a black T-shirt and purple fitness-type pants. Guillen’s car keys, room key, identification card and wallet were found in the armory room where she was working earlier that day.
Before her disappearance, the private first class told her family that one of her sergeants at Fort Hood had sexually harassed her. Speaking at a press conference on July 1 in Houston, Guillen’s sister, Lupe, said the 20 year-old was not kept safe by the U.S. Army and that the military allowed her sister to be sexually harassed.
The soldier’s family has accused the base of lying to them about Guillen’s disappearance and claimed the Army is covering up information in the case.
“They lied to our faces every day. My sister was sexually harassed yet nothing was done. They did not respect my sister. They did not keep my sister safe,” an emotional Lupe told the press.
“My sister is no joke. My sister is a human being. I want justice and I want answers. My sister did not do this to herself,” Lupe continued. “My sister deserves justice.”
Guillen reported sexual harassment to other soldiers on base and to her family, but did not officially report it because she feared retaliation, attorney Natalie Khawam told the press. Khawam said that a male superior walked into a room where Guillen was showering.
“We have a dead person because of sexual harassment,” the attorney said at the start of the press conference. “We want legislation.”
She continued: “If she could get killed, anyone could get killed. This could happen to our mothers, sisters, daughters. We want a bill in her name.”
Guillen’s family and attorney demanded a congressional investigation into Fort Hood’s handling of the case. They were joined by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who also called for justice.
“We stand here for Vanessa. We stand here for justice. We stand here for every service member who has experienced sexual assault and did not feel safe reporting it,” Gabbard said.
Khawam told reporters that she believed there were at least three suspects involved in the case. She added that a man who killed himself early on July 1 was connected to her disappearance. Guillen’s other sister, Myra, told reporters that she previously met the man who killed himself and believed he had something to do with the soldier’s disappearance.
“I met him not knowing he had something to do with it,” she said, according to The Statesman. “I felt something was telling me that he did something and I wasn’t wrong apparently.”
Killen Police Department said that officers along with U.S. Marshals with the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force assisted investigators with the Fort Hood Criminal Investigation Division in locating a suspect at around 1:29 a.m. in the 4700 block of East Rancier Avenue.
“As officers attempted to make contact with the suspect, the suspect displayed a weapon and discharged it towards himself,” Killeen Police said. “The suspect succumbed from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
Khawam identified the suspect who fatally shot himself and said the suspect “ran off the base on foot and shot himself when they came up to him.” According to Kahwam, the suspect was Guillen’s superior who allegedly sexually harassed her.
In a statement, Fort Hood confirmed that the suspect who shot himself was connected to Guillen’s disappearance. However, the base declined to identify the soldier’s name until next of kin was notified of his death.
Fort Hood also confirmed that a civilian suspect, who was the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier, was in custody at the Bell County Jail.
“We have made significant progress in this tragic situation and are doing everything possible to get to the truth and bring answers to the family of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen,” said Chris Grey, the spokesman for Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID).
Human Remains Found
On June 30, the CID said that investigators “returned to an area of interest close to the Leon River, Bell County, Texas” and found partial human remains. Authorities have not confirmed that the remains belong to Guillen.
Tim Miller, the director and founder of Texas EquuSearch, told CNN that the remains were discovered in a shallow grave approximately 26 miles from where the remains of soldier Gregory Wedel-Morales were found earlier in June. Search operations were suspended pending identification, Miller said.
Miller told KHOU that whoever hid the remains “did a good job of concealing it. I can honestly say that I was probably standing right on top of it, other people were standing right on top of it, many searches walked over it, cadaver dogs did not alert to it.”
Khawam told CBS News that investigators told Guillen’s family they believe the remains could be hers but it must be confirmed by a forensic team. The family confirmed during the press conference that the remains had not been officially identified.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Army CID Special Agents at 254-287-2722 or the Military Police Desk at 254-288-1170. They can submit information anonymously here.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.