Vanessa Guillen: Reconstructing the Crime Scene
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
UPDATE: The Guillen family lawyer made a statement Sunday, July 5th, confirming that the remains recently found are that of Vanessa Guillen. They say this finally puts an end to the search that "lacked urgency and care" by the U.S. military.
More to come as this story develops.
“How she was found, I'm a firm believer God had a hand in something on this."
Private First Class (PFC) Vanessa Guillen, 20, was last seen alive on Wednesday, April 22nd in the parking lot near her 3rd Cavalry Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters on Army Base Fort Hood in Texas, according to the website dedicated to finding her.
Coworkers say she arrived to work in the underground armory room under her troop’s building where she was checking serial numbers of guns and equipment. At some point in the afternoon, a witness says Vanessa left the armory without her belongings to meet with another soldier for a work-related matter.
Fort Hood, Texas, is the largest active duty US military base in the world with 65,000 active members working at any given time. The fact that someone can disappear without a trace seems highly unlikely — but unfortunately, not impossible.
Vanessa left her troop's armory, and she was never seen again.
But, after months of seemingly no news, Vanessa’s case has finally developed new leads.
On June 30, investigators found partial human remains in a shallow grave about 30 miles away from Fort Hood. The remains have not been positively identified, but many strongly speculate that it is Vanessa.
The discovery of the remains led to the identification of two suspects — Fort Hood Specialist (SPC) Aaron David Robinson, who took his own life moments before being questioned by police, and the other, civilian Cecily Ann Aguilar, who is currently in custody, according to an FBI Criminal Complaint Affidavit.
Aguilar was reinterviewed following her arrest this week, and she said that everything she previously told law enforcement in their initial April interaction was a lie. She said that Robinson was calling her incessantly during the afternoon on April 22, and that he eventually picked her up late at night from the gas station where she works.
Now, investigators are starting to connect the dots — but without a positive identification of the partial remains and corroborating evidence to the alleged account detailed by Aguilar, we are still left to wonder what happened to Vanessa on April 22nd.
So, I set out to see if I could gather enough information online to put some of the pieces together, and create a clearer picture of what might’ve happened to Vanessa Guillen.
Let’s look at the sheet.
To begin understanding what could've happened to Vanessa the day she was last seen alive, we have to first understand Vanessa as a person.
According to the Find Vanessa Guillen Facebook page which is run by her family members and boyfriend, Vanessa wanted to join the army since she graduated high school.
She always had a smile on her face, and enjoyed spending time with her army friends on and off of Fort Hood. Vanessa was incredibly physically active, and she really enjoyed going to the on-base gym, playing soccer with friends, running and working out.
She loved being creative with makeup, and she recently started getting tattoos, as she was dotted with black and grey flowers paired with linework of a geometric mountain range all inked on her left arm, according to the website dedicated to solving her disappearance.
But, 3 weeks before Vanessa went missing, her mother says there was a shift in her, and the once radiant smile slipped away as she became more distant when they spoke over the phone. Finally, Vanessa confided in her mother, and she said she was being sexually harassed by another soldier at Fort Hood.
According to her mother, Vanessa explained that there was a man who watched her as she showered and followed her while she was running and working out.
Vanessa never disclosed the harasser's name to friends or family, but she told her mother that she was ready to take care of it.
But then, Vanessa went missing — leaving her car keys, room key, ID card, and wallet all in the Fort Hood armory where she had been working.
Here's what we know and what we don't know.
It's verified that Vanessa went to work at her 3rd Cavalry Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters's armory on Fort Hood on April 22, 2020. I believe the armory is located at 9421 Old Ironsides Fort Hood, Texas 76544, based on the 3CR Regimental Engineer Squadron's Facebook page.
Based on Vanessa's phone records, she texted Fort Hood Specialist (SPC) Aaron David Robinson, who is another 3CR troop armory worker with the Alpha Squadron. The texts said that she needed to compare serial numbers for equipment. Robinson responded suggesting to meet, and a coworker says Vanessa left the armory while leaving all of her belongings.
This signals to me that Vanessa thought she wasn't going to be gone for long.
Just as a college student never travels around campus without their college ID to access classrooms and lecture halls, army soldiers wouldn't travel too far without their ID card either.
But, where did Vanessa go?
It's been widely reported and supported by the affidavit that Aaron Robinson worked in a building "at another location." Other articles go as far as to say they worked in "adjacent" buildings — but even with that information, there are 3 buildings surrounding the one that she worked that would fit that description.
It is my opinion that 9420 Old Ironsides Avenue is the address for where Vanessa would've traveled to, and where she was ultimately killed.
This is based on the fact that the buildings are in close proximity, close enough to where Vanessa would've arguably have felt comfortable enough to part with her belongings for a short period of time. It's also a fact that Vanessa was going to Robinson's armory, and Robinson later admitted to the police that they met in his armory on the afternoon of April 22nd.
Circumstantial evidence includes the detailed affidavit that says she visited Robinson, and that Google Earth images show unmistakeable Alpha Squadron insignia on the building located at 9420 Old Ironsides Avenue.
Nearly a week after Vanessa disappeared, the authorities interviewed Robinson about what happened that day. According to the FBI affidavit, Robinson said that he gave Vanessa paperwork for a 0.50 caliber machine gun that needed to be serviced.
He said that he left his armory and simply assumed that Vanessa was off to the motor pool, a military unit that does the firearm servicing. But, those working at the motor pool that day confirm Vanessa never made it their office.
Robinson also tells authorities a week after Vanessa disappeared that on the night of April 22, he was at his off-base home with Aguilar the whole time, "except for 6:30 when he had to come on post to sign on to a government computer to enroll in training," according to the affidavit.
Did Robinson actually enroll in training that evening, or did he return on-base to handle something more sinister? Remember, Robinson fled Fort Hood and killed himself this past Wednesday, literally moments before the police could apprehend him, so investigators only have what Aguilar said in her statement to go off of until they can verify with more evidence.
Let's look at what she had to say.
Aguilar was reintervewd following her arrest this week, and she said that everything she previously told law enforcement in their initial April interaction was a lie. She said that Robinson was calling her incessantly during the afternoon on April 22, and that he eventually picked her up late at night from the gas station where she works.
The pair drove out roughly 30 miles away from Fort Hood where Aguilar says Robinson stopped near the Leon River. The two got out, and Robinson opened a big container he had in his car that contained the body of a young woman, whom Aguilar later identified as being Vanessa.
According to Aguilar, the two worked together to dismember, burn, and scatter the remains before sealing off each burial location with a concrete-like substance.
The location where the partial human remains were recently found matches where Aguilar and Robinson's phones were pinging that night through till 3:30 a.m. the next morning. However, we still don't have a postive identification on the remains, but as I mentioned, it's very likely that it's Vanessa.
Cecily Aguilar was charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence in connection with the alleged killing of Vanessa, according to the affidavit.
Below is the full five-page FBI Criminal Complaint Affidavit, along with Cecily Ann Aguilar's mugshot.
Now that authorities know Aguilar's apparent account of what happened that night, they are still left to wonder, what happened to Vanessa?
They press Aguilar on this issue, and she shares bits of the conversation she had with Robinson while they were trying to get rid of the remains, and what she says does coincide with verifiable time stamps and location pings of their phone records.
A Hammer, a Box, and a Vehicle.
According to Aguilar, Vanessa did travel over to Robinson's troop's armory just as phone records indicate. Aguilar also says that the two got into a fight because Vanessa apparently saw photos of Aguilar on Robinson's phone and threatened to tell superiors about their "extramarital relationship" considering Aguilar is an estranged wife to another man at Fort Hood.
An affair, as aforementioned, is grounds for a dishonorable discharge — but many people don't seem to buy that motive. Some say that Robinson might've sexually harassed Vanessa, or even tried to assault her while they were alone in the armory, and Vanessa fought back.
Remember: we don't know the name of whomever Vanessa says was sexually harassing her in the weeks leading up to her disappearance.
As the motive is still being debated, Aguilar says Robinson grabbed a hammer and struck Vanessa in the head repeatedly, killing her, as he told Aguilar that Vanessa, "never made it out of the Army alive (referring to Fort Hood)."
Robinson reportedly cleaned up the armory and moved Vanessa's body into a Pelican box.
He then supposedly left the base to change into different clothes and gather supplies (lime, a hatchet, a machete-type knife, and mixing concrete) to dispose of her body. Later that evening, Robinson returned to the Armory to move the Pelican Box to his car — which two witnesses confirm seeing him do.
At the time, I'm sure the witnesses didn't think anything of it.
June 30, 2020.
It's Robinson's phone location pings and neighbors complaining of a terrible smell that led investigators back to a location in Belton, Texas, where they found the newly unidentified partial human remains, according to the affidavit.
It was only a week prior that the FBI and search parties brought cadaver dogs to search the wooded area, but only found a lid to a Pelican box. Unbeknownst to them, it would match the description of the box that the two witnesses said they saw Robinson wheeling out to his car in April.
"After we found that evidence [partially buried Pelican lid], we just knew she had to be somewhere close," Tim Miller of Texas EquuSearch is quoted saying by NY Daily News after being asked about his experience looking for Vanessa.
Miller continued, “How she was found, I'm a firm believer God had a hand in something on this."
Moreover, KHOU11 News confirmed that the location where the remains were found is near the Little River Academy, exactly where Texas EquuSearch investigators were looking last week.
After searching on Google Earth and doing some photo comparisons, I found the location where the remains were uncovered.
I'm confident in this match, particularly because of the pattern in the treeline compared to the grass space where the cars parked, as well as the fact that it's so close to the Little River Academy and Leon River.
Now, we wait for a potential positive identification.
Even as I worked tirelessly to find the missing puzzle pieces for this case, I'm still trying to make sense of it all.
I have so many questions — particularly about the seemingly endless freedom and time apparently Robinson had carry out a heinous crime.
If it's true that Vanessa was bludgeoned to death in an armory, how is it that on a base with 65,000 people, no one saw or heard anything?
A blunt weapon like a hammer creates tremendous blood cast-off and spray patterns that would've showered the room. If her body was on the floor for even a few moments before Robinson could've moved her into a Pelican box, what about the pool of blood that would've remained?
Is it really possible that Robinson was able to quickly clean up and store Vanessa's body in a Pelican box without anyone else knowing? If Robinson had the ability to lock up the armory while he left Fort Hood, maybe it's possible.
This then takes me to my next question: did cameras catch any part of this story? Nothing has publicly been said about security cameras, so it's unclear.
Also, what happened to the murder weapon? Aguilar makes no mention of it being found in the Pelican box. Is it possible it's still on base, or in Robinson's car?
I suggest that law enforcement need to make it a priority to identify the human remains, locate the alleged murder weapon, and do a thorough analysis of Robinson's troop's armory at 9420 Old Ironsides Avenue.
They should first be using luminol as a presumptive test to look for evidence of blood, and they must look for evidence of cleanup while taking samples of high touch and "forgotten" areas like the back of a door handle or cabinet handle of wherever the weapon would've been retrieved.
At some point, he would've needed to touch something, and unless there's a sink in the armory, there might still be trace evidence of blood.
I would also interview other people that worked at the armory to see if they noticed anything "off" in the space, or if it smelled like cleaning products more so than usual in the days following April 22nd.
Moreover, I would interview friends of Robinson and Aguilar to ask about their behavior the weeks following April 22. What they would've witnessed in trying to dismember and scorch human remains is traumatic — it's possible one of them, likely Aguilar, spoke to a friend or posted private cryptic messages on social media.
We know for sure that Aguilar posted cryptic captions on public Instagram photos soon after she would've destroyed the remains. It's also telling that her Instagram bio reads: "...she’s got the fire In her souls and will burn you alive 🔥"
Could this be a subconcious nod to how she and Robinson aledgedly burned Vanessa's remains? It's possible. I don't know when it was written.
However, this particular Instagram post published on May 1, just nine days after Vanessa was likely killed, has a strange caption that reads the following:
“I loved her, the dark side of her. Any girl can play innocent, but her demons are what drove me wild. Her secrets, her pain she mask by laughter, her darkness she trys so hard to hide, thats what made me fall for her.” [sic]
This case has been incredibly difficult for me to dive into — not just because of the complexities, but because I wasn't able to shake the tragedy. I kept needing to take breaks just to pace in my apartment because when a case ends this violently, it messes with your thought process, and you can start to think about humanity differently — questioning the good in the world.
Vanessa selflessly enlisted in the army after graduating from high school knowing that she wanted to protect, serve, and help other people.
At just 20 years old, she still had her entire life to live.
She was a granddaughter, a daughter, a sister, a friend.
But, most importantly, she was someone — someone who wanted to make a difference in the world, and that chance was ripped from her by greed and barbarity.
While cases like this show the ugly in the world, they also illuminate the power of passion.
Vanessa's case has garnered an incredible amount of media attention, with hashtags and petitions being circulated, congress members calling for action, as well as statements from other female service members exposing the dark underbelly of sexual harassment and assault in the military.
Vanessa Guillen cannot be just another statistic.