Spc. Vanessa Guillen was reported missing April 23, a day after she was last seen in the parking lot of her Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters at Fort Hood in Texas. Photo courtesy Fort Hood/Twitter
July 7 (UPI) -- Human remains found last week in Texas belong to missing U.S. soldier Vanessa Guillen, military officials confirmed as politicians demanded the Pentagon watchdog launch an independent investigation into the woman's death.
Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt told reporters during a press conference Monday the Armed Forces forensic examiner has determined through DNA analysis that human remains found a week ago near the Leon River in Bell County belong to Guillen, who was reported missing from nearby Fort Hood in mid-April.
"There are no words that convey the sense of loss to her family, her friends and her fellow soldiers that I feel during this tremulously difficult time," he said. "We all feel her loss, the loss of a vibrant young woman who bravely volunteered to serve her country, the loss of a talented soldier, the loss of a loving family member and the loss of a friend with a bright future ahead of her."
The announcement came after Natalie Khawam, an attorney for the Guillen family, said Sunday the Army had confirmed that the bones, hair and other remains found near the base belonged to Guillen.
Efflandt said Guillen's family was notified Sunday and the Army will complete its own sexual harassment investigation connected to Guillen's death and disappearance.
"Every person who raises their right hand to serve their family and their country in uniform deserves to be safe and treated with dignity and respect," he said.
Guillen, 20, was last seen April 22 in the parking lot of her Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters at Fort Hood, and was reported missing the next day, prompting a search that led to the discovery of her remains last week.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command identified Spc. Aaron David Robinson as a suspect in the case. He died by suicide last week as law enforcement attempted to make contact with him.
A second suspect, 22-year-old Cecily Aguilar, has been arrested on accusations she helped Robinson, her boyfriend, dismember Guillen's body and bury it in three different locations.
The affidavit states Robinson bludgeoned Guillen to death with a hammer on April 22 in the armory where she worked before contacting Aguilar to help dispose of the body.
Guillen's family has said that Robinson had sexually harassed Guillen but she was afraid to issue a formal complaint.
Eighty-seven lawmakers signed a letter Monday supporting calls for the Department of Defense Inspector General's Office to conduct "a full and independent investigation" into Guillen's disappearance and death.
According to a Pentagon report in April, reports of sexual assault increased by 3 percent in 2019 to a total of 7,825 complaints.
Texas Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela issued a joint statement on Monday supporting an investigation, saying the military is "incapable of policing" itself and urged civilian reforms for the military.
"It is time to demand civilian oversight, accountability and reform," Gonzalez said. "The family of Spc. Vanessa Guillen and all who are affected by these tragic events deserve more than our thoughts and prayers -- they deserve action and answers."
Aguilar made her initial appearance in court on Monday for charges of conspiracy to tamper with evidence.