Army report confirms Vanessa Guillén was sexually harassed before her death

A report on last year’s slaying of Spc. Vanessa Guillén confirmed that she was being sexually harassed before her death at Fort Hood, Texas, but not by the man suspected of killing her, according to Army documents released Friday.

Army investigators found that Guillén was “sexually harassed by a superior noncommissioned officer in her unit,” though the person was not named in the report.

“The report indicates that Guillén informally reported that she was sexually harassed on two occasions, and in both instances her supervisor failed to report the harassment, and other leaders failed to take appropriate action,” according to a summary of the investigation.

But no evidence indicates that the sexual harassment was in any way related to her death.

Guillén was last seen on April 22, 2020, before Spc. Aaron Robinson allegedly hit her in the head with a hammer “multiple times” in an armory room at Fort Hood. Robinson reportedly took her body to the Leon River, roughly 20 miles from the Army base, where he and his girlfriend at the time, Cecily Aguilar, buried Guillén’s remains.

Robinson killed himself on June 30 as police attempted to arrest him.

Army officials were not able to say whether a motive was found for Robinson to kill Guillén as there is still a federal investigation ongoing.

Though the report found “no credible evidence to conclude” that Robinson sexually harassed Guillén, Robinson was discovered to have sexually harassed a different female specialist at Fort Hood between April to September 2019.

Five current or former leaders at Fort Hood’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment have been fired as a result of the new report, with three of those to receive General Officer Memorandums of Reprimand, according to an Army statement released Friday.

Another eight commissioned and noncommissioned officers had further action referred against them, with one to be fired.

The firings and punishments mark a total 21 personnel to be disciplined as a result of investigations began after Guillén’s disappearance.

“None of this will bring Spc. Guillén back. Her memory drives us to be better,” Army Forces Command Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Gene LeBoeuf told reporters Friday.

Her death will “drive the Army forward to affect change for our people, our communities and our nation. You are witnessing action for culture change,” he added.

In December, 14 leaders were relieved of duty or suspended from their position at Fort Hood following an independent review of the base’s command climate. Included in the group was Fort Hood’s commander, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was leading the base when Guillén went missing.

“As of today, accountability actions have been initiated against members of Spc. Guillén’s chain of command from junior through senior leaders,” according to the Army statement.

Then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced an investigation into Guillén’s disappearance and death in September following public outcry over the circumstances of her killing and the persistent issue of sexual crimes in the military.

Guillén’s family has long asserted that she told them she was being sexually harassed before she disappeared but did not officially report it.

Up until Friday, the Army has said they haven’t found evidence to support the family’s claim. 

But after the investigation team interviewed 151 witnesses, reviewed more than 6,000 emails, and analyzed more than 11,500 pages of documents, they confirmed that Guillén was harassed beginning in late summer of 2019.

Guillén was in her troop orderly room when one of her supervisors made an inappropriate sexual comment in Spanish which she translated as a solicitation for her to participate in a “threesome,” according to a summary of the report.

Following the incident, another supervisor noticed a marked change in her demeanor, prompting them to ask if she was OK. Guillén told them and another soldier of the inappropriate sexual comment. She also later confided in several peers.

Two soldiers reported the incident to Guillén’s unit leadership sometime between Sept. 16, 2019, and Oct. 9, 2019, but they failed to initiate an investigation.

In addition, the supervisor that asked for a threesome would specifically target her, call her out in front of her peers and consistently made an example out of her.

“During a field training exercise, this same supervisor encountered SPC Guillén while she performed personal hygiene in the wood line and SPC Guillén reported that this made her uncomfortable,” the report notes.

The investigation determined that the supervisor was “unprofessional” and “created an intimidating, hostile environment” for Guillén and others.

Furthermore, leadership failed to hold the supervisor accountable, even though they “knew of the aggressive and counterproductive leadership but took no action.”

It’s unclear what disciplinary action the person is facing, but LeBoeuf said they are “one of those [21] individuals facing these adverse actions.”

Their name was not released as their rank is below the level “that we would want to release that information for privacy considerations,” as the investigation is ongoing, LeBoeuf said.

The report also details the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, which happened after she reported for duty the morning of April 22, 2020. Guillén had her first task in the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop’s first arms room, and left at 10:15 a.m. to visit the second arms room, located in a nearby building and occupied by Robinson, the man suspected of killing her.

When she did not return, a supervisor and the soldier who had opened the first arms room for her “went to the second arms room at 12:31 p.m. to look for her but the arms room was locked.”

The search for her began that evening as she had stopped responding to text messages and calls and she had left behind her debit card, military ID card and keys.

By the morning of April 23, the squadron and regimental leadership “immediately sensed the suspicious nature” of her disappearance and a significant search effort was mounted.

But Efflandt “misjudged the significance” of Guillén’s disappearance and was “overly reluctant to engage the media,” driven by “a firm belief that the command should prioritize the protection of the integrity of the investigation over any command engagement with the media,” according to the report.

By taking this cautious stance, Efflandt did not recognize the disappearance “as a high profile event and failed to react appropriately to the incident over time,” contributing to an inability to inform the public in a timely manner and a failure to maintain transparency with the Guillén family.

“By the time Fort Hood developed a media communications strategy on 29 June, Fort Hood had lost the trust of the Guillén Family, and critically damaged the trust, confidence, and reputation of Fort Hood and the Army with the surrounding community and the Nation.”

Tags Fort Hood Ryan McCarthy Sexual assault Sexual harassment Texas Vanessa Guillen

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