Vanessa Guillen had a promising future ahead of her. Stationed at Fort Hood, she worked as a small arms repairer with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment and told her family and friends that she dreamed of someday being transferred to Germany.
But those dreams were cut short. Guillen, 20, was last seen alive on April 22 when she was spotted in a parking lot at squadron headquarters in Fort Hood. Her car keys, barracks room key, identification card and wallet were later found in the armory room where she had been working earlier in the day.
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For two months, Guillen’s family searched for answers while authorities investigated the case. On June 30, her family’s greatest fears were realized when her remains were recovered.
Here are four things to know about the disturbing case.
Fort Hood US Army
1. According to Family Members, Guillen Was being Sexually Harassed by a Fellow Soldier
In interviews with PEOPLE, an attorney for Guillen’s family said that she had been harassed by at least one other soldier, and had decided to report the incidents to her superiors. She had not yet reported him by the day she disappeared, and family members believe that there was some sort of confrontation with the alleged harasser.
But in a press conference last Thursday, the Army said there is no “no credible evidence” that Guillen was ever sexually harassed or assaulted on base. The investigation is still ongoing.
2. The Case Garnered International Attention
While Guillen was still missing, actress Salma Hayek took to social media to spread awareness of the case with her 15 million followers.
The actress, 53, shared an Instagram post regarding details about Guillen’s disappearance — and reiterated the sexual harassment claims. The post said that Guillen’s mother alleged her daughter “had complained to her about a sergeant sexually harassing her.”
RELATED: Soldier Suspected in Vanessa Guillen’s Disappearance Identified
“When her mother asked her to report him, Vanessa said other women had reported him and they were not believed,” Hayek said, adding, “Vanessa and Gloria, I believe you and I pledge to put Vanessa’s photo on my stories every day until she is found.”
3. The Prime Suspect in Guillen’s Death Died as Police Moved In on Him
Authorities allege that Guillen, 20, was bludgeoned to death with a hammer by a fellow soldier while she was working in the arms room at Fort Hood. Authorities named Army Specialist Aaron Robinson as the prime suspect. He died by suicide on Wednesday as authorities closed in on him.
Despite reports that Robinson was Guillen’s supervisor, the Army says that he actually had no authority over her. He worked in a building adjacent to her building for several months before her death.
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Cecily Aguilar, Aaron Robinson
Belly County Sheriff’s Office; Facebook
4. A Second Suspect is Accused of Helping Dispose of Guillen’s Body
According to a complaint obtained by PEOPLE, Cecily Aguilar, 22, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence for her alleged role in the case.
The complaint alleges that Robinson placed Guillen’s body in a storage case after killing her. Then, according to the complaint, he enlisted the help of Aguilar, who he had been dating. Police say that the couple cut Guillen’s body up and set it on fire. When the body didn’t burn completely, the couple put the remains in three separate holes and covered them, the complaint alleges.
Aguilar is being held at a jail in Bell County without bond. She has not yet entered a plea, and court records do not reflect an attorney authorized to speak on her behalf.
DOJ, IRS Investigating Crypto Exchange Binance
Binance Holdings Ltd. is facing a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
Officials specializing in tax and money-laundering investigations are probing the world’s largest crypto exchange, according to the report.
Binance operates a sprawling global empire of crypto trading, including derivatives, which are essentially barred from the U.S. market. The Binance brand has attempted to project itself as above-board through recent regulatory hires including former U.S. senator Max Baucus. Former banking regulator Brian Brooks was installed as CEO of Binance’s U.S. affiliate last month.
“We take our legal obligations very seriously and engage with regulators and law enforcement in a collaborative fashion,” a Binance spokesperson said in a statement. “We have worked hard to build a robust compliance program that incorporates anti-money laundering principles and tools used by financial institutions to detect and address suspicious activity.”
She declined to comment on the reported investigation.
Binance CEO “CZ” Changpeng Zhao commented on the Bloomberg article in a tweet:
The CDC director just gave us a dark coronavirus warning
The latest coronavirus update for the US through mid-morning on Thursday shows that, according to the latest data collected by the team at Johns Hopkins University, more than 28.7 million coronavirus cases have been reported in the US since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, the coronavirus death toll in the US was approaching 519,000 as of the time of this writing.
Nevertheless, two states created an uproar this week when both states (Texas and Mississippi) announced their decision to pull back restrictions and mandates imposed during the pandemic, like max capacity requirements for businesses and statewide face mask rules. President Biden criticized these moves as the product of “Neanderthal thinking,” while CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky actually went farther than that — warning during a White House press briefing this week that the US could lose all of the progress made thus far as a result of the spread of more transmissible coronavirus variants. Spread that would be helped even more by states like these and others that join them pulling back on their coronavirus-related public safety measures too soon.
“Please hear me clearly,” Dr. Walensky said. “At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and to our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know could stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
While there has been a degree of promising news coverage in recent days and weeks, make no mistake: We’re still very much in the middle of a dangerous pandemic. COVID-19 cases, as well as related deaths, are up about 2% compared to last week — and we’re now averaging around 67,000 coronavirus cases per day, along with some 2,000 deaths each day.
Along these lines, and related to the Texas and Mississippi news, former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb had an important insight to share in a CNBC interview this week — namely, that governments and public health experts need to start talking to people about the end of the pandemic and how we get there. Else, we’ll see more people go down this same road, either by feeling like things are hopeless or prematurely easing up on safety measures. “If we continue to be very prescriptive and not give people a realistic vision for a better future, they’re going to start to ignore the public health guidance,” Gottlieb said.
Walensky continued her remarks by noting that an average of less than 70,000 coronavirus cases a day seems good compared to where we were a few months ago. But we “cannot be resigned” to that.
“Please stay strong in your conviction, continue wearing your well-fitted mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work,” she said. “Ultimately, vaccination is what will bring us out of this pandemic. To get there, we need to vaccinate many more people.”
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