The sole suspect in the 2020 killing of soldier Vanessa Gillen in Fort Hood, Texas, pleaded guilty Tuesday to four counts, including assisting in post-mortem murder.
Cecily Aguilar, 24, could face up to 30 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $1 million fine, according to prosecutors. She also pleaded guilty to three false statements or statements.
Specialist Gillen, 20, was last seen on April 22, 2020 at Fort Hood, the third largest military base in the United States. Her prosecutor said she was repeatedly hit in the head with a hammer by another soldier, expert Aaron Robinson, killing her and hiding her body in a large box.
Specialist Robinson was in custody, but escaped and committed suicide with a pistol in July 2020, days before the indictment was announced.
Specialist Gillen’s case sparked outrage from many, including celebrities, lawmakers, military women, and Latinos.
An Army investigation found “serious flaws” in Fort Hood and a climate “tolerating sexual harassment and assault”, including the harassment of expert Gillen. This led to the dismissal or suspension of 14 of his officials, including senior leaders.
The Netflix documentary I Am Vanessa Guillen, released on November 17th, brought renewed attention to the case and told the story of her family’s commitment to justice.a federal law A law of the same name, which went into effect January 1, requires that complaints of sexual harassment involving military personnel be sent to an independent investigator.
US military details
Justice Department officials said Robinson’s girlfriend, Ms. Aguilar, had been informed of the killing, and the couple had dismembered the body and attempted to burn it.
From April 22, 2020 to July 1, 2020, Ms. Aguilar helped “unauthorizedly alter, destroy, mutilate and conceal evidence” to prevent Specialist Robinson from being prosecuted, the West said. said in a statement from the federal prosecutor’s office of the country. Texas area.
She also altered and destroyed Specialist Robinson’s Google account information, the statement said.
Aguilar initially lied to investigators about what he knew, but later confessed to being involved in the disposal of the bodies, prosecutors said in court documents.
“During the investigation into the disappearance of Vanessa Gillen, Aguilar made four materially false statements to federal investigators,” the statement said.
The federal attorney’s office for the West District of Texas, which represents Aguilar, declined to comment.
A ruling date has not yet been set, said Michael Luhrmann, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Prior to her plea, Aguilar said she was scheduled to stand trial in January.
Aguilar, a civilian, was indicted on 11 counts. Her plea came as a surprise because she had pleaded not guilty to all charges before Tuesday, said Natalie Kawam, Gillens’ attorney.
“We were looking for the day when she would confess and admit her crimes, and the harm done to this family,” she said, adding, “Today’s confession will give us some relief.” give.
In 2020, Khawam took on Dr. Guillen’s case without charging his family. When her remains were discovered, the focus shifted to justice and accountability for her death.
Gillen’s family will testify to a judge about Aguilar’s sentence. Court appearances and constant advocacy have protracted the process of mourning the loss, said her sister Myra Gillen.
“I’m somewhat relieved to know she’s admitted what she’s done and doesn’t plan to continue fighting us, but until judgment day, it’s definitely not a closed case,” she said. Told.
Following Aguilar’s sentencing, advocacy for bereaved families will continue to focus on others in the Army who have experienced sexual harassment and demand justice for Dr. Guillen’s own harassment.
“I just ask God for real justice because she’s not the only one to blame,” her mother, Gloria Gillen, said. I pray to God that it will come to light.”