McLENNAN COUNTY, Texas (FOX 44) – UPDATE: Judge Alan D. Albright handed down a sentence of 30 years in prison to Cecily Aguilar for her involvement in the murder of then-Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillén.
The judge made that decision after going into a short recess following Guillén’s family testimony during the sentencing hearing about their deep grief following her death.
Earlier Monday, Texas Ranger Justin Duck testified regarding the role Aguilar played in Guillén’s disappearance. After Guillén was reported missing, Duck had several conversations with Aguilar because her boyfriend, Aaron Robinson, was the last person to see Guillén.
It wasn’t until the authorities discovered human remains by the Leon River that Aguilar confessed. Aguilar admitted to helping Aaron Robinson dismember and bury the body of Vanessa Guillén. More witness testimony is following.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said the 30-year sentencing of Cecily Aguilar finally brings closure to one crucial phase of justice.
“Nothing will ever replace the pain and loss the Guillén family has suffered by Vanessa’s tragic murder,” says Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President. “What this sentence represents is a victory of our community standing together and seeing this process through to its end. Because of the fight we undertook after Vanessa’s death, LULAC can say we have the Vanessa Guillén Act that will protect generations of other servicemembers from falling victim to military sexual assault or worse. It is a bittersweet moment, and we will not stop any time that crimes are committed against our Latino men and women in military uniform,” added Garcia.
“There are no winners in this story,” says Analuisa Tapia, the LULAC leader who organized community protest vigils outside Ft. Cavazos every Friday for weeks while the Army was silent on Vanessa’s disappearance in April 2022.
“What we have been seeking isn’t vengeance but justice so that this never happens again, like what Vanessa went through. She was a victim multiple times because the Army did not protect her or listen to her family’s pleas for help when Vanessa went missing. Perhaps now, we can begin to let Vanessa rest in peace and power that her death has brought us to a better place for others,” says Tapia.
“Our hope is that today’s sentence brings a sense of relief and justice to the Guillén family, who have endured such pain throughout these past few years,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza, 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. I’m grateful for our law enforcement partners who worked tirelessly on this case, as their dedication was essential in bringing this defendant to justice.”
Cecily Ann Aguilar is the last surviving person charged in connection with the death of Vanessa Guillén. She appeared for sentencing in U.S. District Court in Waco on Monday before Judge Alan D. Albright.
She was scheduled to be sentenced on charges of Tampering with Evidence back in March, but this was delayed after a motion for a continuance of the sentencing was filed.
Aguilar entered a guilty plea to four lesser charges connected to the murder of U.S. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén. She appeared before Judge Jeffrey C. Manske in November 2022, where she admitted to being an accessory after the fact and making false statements to law enforcement.
Guillen disappeared in April 2020 after meeting with Specialist Aaron Robinson in an arms room on Fort Hood. Guillén’s body was found in July 2020. Robinson later killed himself when confronted by authorities about Guillén’s disappearance. Aguilar was facing eleven counts connected to Guillén’s murder – including Tampering with Documents and Conspiracy to Tamper with Documents and Proceedings.
According to a report released in April 2021, investigators say Guillén was sexually harassed and reported it on two separate occasions, creating a hostile environment. They say Guillén’s leaders failed to take appropriate action, and that the allegations were not moved up the chain of command. Investigators also say Robinson did not harass Guillén, but that he did sexually harass another soldier between April 2019 to September 2019.
According to the report, the Acting Senior Commander of Fort Hood misjudged the significance of SPC Guillén’s disappearance, and he was overly reluctant to engage the media – misjudging how big of an event it would become.
By the time Fort Hood reversed course, the investigators say the post lost the trust of the Guillén Family and damaged the trust, confidence and reputation of Fort Hood and the U.S. Army.