Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillén died 'in the line of duty,' Army inquiry says

Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén died "in the line of duty," a determination that grants her family access to certain military benefits, officials at Fort Hood, Texas, said Tuesday.

"The Army conducts a line of duty determination for all Soldier deaths," Fort Hood officials said in a statement announcing that Guillén's family had been briefed about the results of the investigation.

The determination entitles Guillén's family to a funeral with full military honors, as well as other Army benefits, including compensation to help the family with life expenses through Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, as well as allowances.

Guillén, 20, was last seen alive April 22 at Fort Hood. Her dismembered remains were found near the base two months later. When police moved in to arrest Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, in connection with her disappearance, he shot and killed himself, authorities said in early July. Shortly afterward, a woman identified as Robinson's girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, 22, was arrested on federal charges of tampering with evidence, accused of having helped Robinson dispose of Guillén's body. Aguilar, who pleaded not guilty, is due in court Nov. 30.

Image: Vanessa Guillen (United States Army)
Image: Vanessa Guillen (United States Army)

The military had also opened up a separate inquiry looking into allegations that Guillén was sexually harassed by a supervisor after Natalie Khawam, an attorney for the Guillén family, said Guillén had reported her harassment to her family and colleagues at Fort Hood.

While officials said they had no credible information or reports that Guillén was sexually assaulted, the allegations prompted many service members to share their experiences with sexual assault and harassment on social media using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen.

A report from the Defense Department in 2018 found that sexual assault in the military had increased over the previous two years. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has said Fort Hood has some of the highest rates of murder, sexual assault and harassment in the Army.

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Family and friends mourned Guillén's killing during a memorial service Aug. 14 at Cesar E. Chavez High School in Houston, where she graduated from high school.

"It's very difficult for me to be standing here during my sister's memorial service," Lupe, Guillén's younger sister, said in Spanish during the service. "But I know she must be up in heaven giving me the strength I need."

"Vanessa Guillen is the definition of beauty and strength," she added. "But I assure you that she is OK now."

The III Corps leadership at Fort Hood said they will remain in contact with Guillén's family to keep them informed about the additional actions being taken at the base and "what policies are being revised to ensure Army culture continues to put people first and honor Vanessa's life."

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