Landmark Sentencing: Texas Woman Receives 30-Year Prison Term for Cover-Up in Vanessa Guillén Murder Case
Fort Cavazos, Texas – August 14, 2023
In a significant development for justice and accountability within the U.S. military, Cecily Aguilar was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison on Monday for her role in attempting to conceal the murder of Specialist Vanessa Guillén, a soldier stationed at what was formerly known as Fort Hood, now renamed Fort Cavazos. Aguilar’s sentencing marks a watershed moment in a case that shone a spotlight on sexual assault within the military and led to substantial policy changes.
Aguilar, the sole individual charged in connection with the death of Specialist Guillén, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of accessory to murder after the fact and three counts of making false statements during her trial at a federal court in Waco, Texas.
Specialist Guillén, only 20 years old, vanished on April 22, 2020, from Fort Hood, igniting a nationwide search and a renewed focus on the pervasive issue of sexual harassment within the military. Though Guillén had confided in friends about experiencing sexual harassment, she had not formally reported the incidents. Her remains, tragically dismembered and burned, were discovered two months later on June 30.
The deeply distressing case intensified calls for systemic changes in how the military addresses reports of sexual harassment and assault. In response, an in-depth investigation revealed a series of “major flaws” in the culture at Fort Hood, leading to the Army disciplining more than a dozen officials. This effort culminated in the passing of a federal law named in Specialist Guillén’s honor, which took effect on January 1, 2022. The law mandates that sexual harassment complaints involving service members be directed to an independent investigator, thereby diminishing the role of commanders and providing safeguards against potential retaliation.
The court proceedings unveiled that the last person Specialist Guillén communicated with was fellow soldier Specialist Aaron Robinson. Prosecutors asserted that Robinson was responsible for her brutal murder, which involved a fatal blow to her head using a hammer and subsequent efforts to conceal her body in a large container.
However, Specialist Robinson managed to evade apprehension, fatally shooting himself before formal charges could be laid. In a shocking turn of events, charging documents revealed that Robinson’s civilian girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, was informed of the murder and actively participated in attempting to erase evidence of the crime. Aguilar’s assistance included tampering with and destroying evidence, notably Specialist Robinson’s Google account, and participating in the dismemberment and burial of Specialist Guillén’s body near the Leon River.
At her sentencing, Aguilar’s role in the macabre disposal of Specialist Guillén’s remains was described in grim detail, with forensic experts testifying to the unprecedented brutality inflicted on the victim’s body. The sentencing marks a pivotal step towards closure for Specialist Guillén’s family, who expressed their relief and satisfaction with the outcome.
In the words of Jaime Esparza, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, “Ms. Aguilar’s actions were indefensible, and she will now face the maximum penalty for the choices she made.” The sentencing sends a clear message that accountability will be pursued, even in the most harrowing of circumstances, serving as a potent reminder of the quest for justice within the U.S. military.