The Mysterious Disappearance And Tragic Death Of Vanessa Guillén

A 20-year-old Vanessa Guillén mysteriously went missing in April of 2020. The U.S. Army Specialist (Spc.) hadn't been seen for a week at her Fort Hood base in Texas, when the Army's criminal investigation unit offered an award for anyone with information about where she was. The Army was hoping a $15,000 prize could lead them to where Guillén was, after her wallet and keys were found, reported CNN. So where was she last seen?

The Texas native was born in Houston on September 30, 1999. It was always an ambition of hers to join the Army one day, and in 2018 when she was 18 years old, she enlisted. By the time she was 20, she had moved up a few ranks to Private First Class (or Pfc.). 

On April 22, Guillén was reportedly seen in a parking lot near her Fort Hood headquarters. Her disappearance was immediately noticed, and her captain reported it the following day to the Army's Criminal Investigation Command (CID). In tracing her last steps, authorities searched her mobile phone records and learned that she last communicated with a fellow soldier who outranked her, per ABC News. His name was Spc. Aaron David Robinson and he became the main suspect in her vanishing. He was questioned about his whereabouts on the day Guillén was last seen, and it raised concerns.

Vanessa Guillén goes missing

By then, the news of a female soldier going missing from a U.S. Army base was national and international news. Vanessa Guillén's family pleaded with the public by leading a vocal and social search for answers. With her family's determined search for her, a new twist was added in the case that the Army had not disclosed. Pfc. Guillén was allegedly being harassed by another soldier and confided in her family about several incidents.

In June, investigators interviewed Cecily Aguilar, Aaron David Robinson's girlfriend, according to ABC News, and they started to poke holes in Robinson's initial story. Robinson said he was with Aguilar that night, but phone calls between them showed otherwise. The two would have sketchy stories contradicting one another, and Aguilar also became a suspect. Afterward, they discovered Aguilar and Robinson took a road trip on April 22 to Leon River.

By mid-June, a search was underway near Leon River but turned up nothing. In a final attempt to get answers, investigators interviewed Aguilar again and finally learned the disturbing details of what happened to Guillén.

The missing persons case turns into a homicide case

Cecily Aguilar admitted to police that Aaron David Robinson told her he killed Vanessa Guillén by hitting her with a hammer and placing her in a box. After purportedly committing the murder, he met with Aguilar and the two drove 30 miles from Fort Hood to Leon River, where they reportedly dismembered Guillén's body and buried her, per ABC News. On June 30, remains were found at the location, but it wouldn't be known until the following week if they were that of Guillén, according to CNN.

But authorities finally knew the suspects responsible for Guillén's disappearance and death with Aguilar's confession, and she was arrested. En route to question and apprehend Robinson, the soldier took his own life, reported NBC. Sadly, a week later, officials finally declared that the remains discovered a week prior were that of Vanessa Guillén.

Guillén's family tells the media in a July press conference that Guillén was being sexually harassed by someone at the base. Her sister Lupe Guillén (pictured) said that Vanessa was afraid to report it. The family's attorney stated that the Army was covering up (via CBS Dallas Fort Worth). All signs pointed to Robinson as the perpetrator, but the Army said they found nothing to support those claims, says ABC News.

The Army admits some faults in Guillén's case

However, over a year since her disappearance, the Army confirmed that Vanessa Guillén did experience sexual harassment and reported it twice to other solders, says The Texas Tribune. As a result, 21 Army members at Fort Hood were disciplined. Shockingly, despite Aaron David Robinson being the person allegedly responsible for Guillén's murder, he was not found to be her offender. Instead, on page three of their lengthy report, they note that Robinson did harass another female soldier, but it was not Guillén.

Guillén's tragic death shed light on the level of harassment women in the military face, and their fears of reporting it. According to The New York Times, one in 16 women in the military report being sexually harassed or assaulted. It is an issue the U.S. Army continues to face even with programs dedicated to combating the issue.

Even though Guillén was already on her way to moving up a rank, she never got to. The Army later posthumously promoted her from Pfc. Guillén to Spc. Guillén, per ABC Orlando.


In November 2022, Cecily Aguilar pleaded guilty to one count of accessory after the fact and three counts of making false statements for her involvement in Vanessa Guillen's murder, KWTX reported. She waived her right to a trial, and in August 2023 the case came to a conclusion when she was sentenced to 30 years in prison, per CNN.

According to NBC News, Aguilar used her testimony to apologize to Guillén's family, and The Washington Post said she also asked for forgiveness. Gloria Guillén said she hopes "God forgives her and that she repents," and Mayra Guillé said that "it would not be so easy to forgive someone who made us suffer so much."

Attorney Natalie Khawam, who represented to Guillen family, said the sentence — the maximum penalty — should "set the example for anyone that will ever contemplate mutilating, destroying, and/or concealing a body," per CNN.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).