WACO, Texas – A 22-year-old woman accused of helping hide the body of slain Texas soldier Vanessa Guillen pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges related to the crime.
Cecily Aguilar of Killeen, near Fort Hood, entered the pleas Tuesday in federal court in Waco to three conspiracy charges in the death of Army Spc. Guillén, 20. Aguilar remains in the Bell County Jail in Belton, Texas, while awaiting trial.
If convicted, Aguilar faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Army Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, of Calumet City, Illinois, killed Guillén with a hammer and had Aguilar help him dismember and dispose of the body in nearby woods, federal and state investigators said. The pair dismembered the body using a “hatchet or ax” and a “machete type knife” to remove Guillen’s limbs and head, according to an affidavit from the FBI.
Guillén’s disappearance became the focus of a nationwide missing-persons search her remains were found in a concrete-like substance buried along the Leon River.
Robinson killed himself July 1, the day Guillén’s remains were found near the river in Bell County, officials said. The remains were identified as Guillén’s on July 6.
Aguilar has since tried to delete her Google accounts and flee the country, said Natalie Khawam, Guillén’s family’s attorney. She said they will continue to build a whistleblower case for the slain soldier and asked anyone with information on Aguilar to come forward.
“She did exactly how ISIS would do to our soldiers,” Khawam said, referring to the allegations against Aguilar.
Guillén’s family has said they believe she was sexually harassed by Robinson. Army investigators said last month that they had no credible evidence that Guillén had been sexually harassed or assaulted.
Khawam said she and the Guillén family will be meeting with President Donald Trump on July 29, the day before the #IAmVanessaGuillen Bill is presented to Congress. The measure would address procedures for reporting sexual harassment and assault in the military.
Fort Hood Senior Commander, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt said “to the victims of sexual harassment and assault, we hear you, we believe you and I encourage you to come forward. The Army will not stop its efforts to eradicate sexual harassment and assault until it no longer exists in our formations, because that’s the Army standard.”
In the meantime, Army officials announced Friday that they will begin an independent review of the Fort Hood command climate following calls from members of Congress and community activists for a more thorough investigation into Guillén's death.
Acacia Coronado is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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