Cecily Aguilar Gets 30-year sentence in Vanessa Guillén Case

Trigger Warning: Sexual violence, graphic violence Cecily Aguilar, the woman who admitted to aiding in mutilating and hiding the body of  Army Spc

vanessa guillen

Photo: U.S. Army

Trigger Warning: Sexual violence, graphic violence

Cecily Aguilar, the woman who admitted to aiding in mutilating and hiding the body of  Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén, was sentenced to 30 years in prison a court hearing Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Western Texas said. Aguilar, 25, assisted her boyfriend Army Spc. Aaron Robinson to conceal Guillén’s body in order to prevent him for being prosecuted and charged for the crime. She also altered and destroyed information contained in a Google account of Robinson, according to court documents. On Nov. 29, 2022, Aguilar pleaded guilty to one count of accessory to murder after the fact and three counts of false statement or representation. Robinson died by suicide once he became a person of interest in the case in 2020, making Aguilar the only person charged in connection to Guillén’s death. Guillén, 20, went missing April 22, 2020 at Fort Cavazos, Texas, formerly known as Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas where she was stationed. After an investigation, her mutilated body was found in a shallow grave on June 30 near the army base.

“We all have different opinions on what justice is, if that’s what the law is saying, then I agree with it,”   Vanessa’s older sister, Mayra Guillén said during a press conference that she wanted Aguilar to receive the maximum sentence.

Robinson had killed Guillén in an armory room by bludgeoning her with a hammer and he then put Guillén’s body in a box and drove her to the Leon River, roughly 20 miles from base, according to court documents. He proceeded to pick up Aguilar from her work and the two drove back, allegedly dismembering Guillén and attempting to burn her body before burying her in three separate holes, according to court records. “There was a hole in her head,” Aguilar told detectives. Witnesses noted that Aguilar and Robinson visited the site twice, first to dismember the body and then to mix her remains with cement, NBC News reported.

“I give my sincerest apologies to the family. I am ashamed of my actions and the person I was. My actions haunt me every day. Vanessa does not deserve what happened to her. I am hoping that one day, Mrs. Guillén that you will have comfort,” Aguilar said in a statement to the Guillén family. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ in person.”

Mayra said during Monday’s press conference that Aguilar’s apology “really took me by surprise.” “It just doesn’t make any sense to me as to why she took so long to speak up and you can’t tell me her demeanor is going to change from one morning to the next, and it’s just hard to find that apology sincere,” she said, CNN reported.

During the trial, more details were released about her death and relationship to Robinson. When asked why Robinson would kill Vanessa, Aguilar said he did not know, and that he barely knew her and that her name was not even saved in Robinson’s phone, KWTX reported. Prosecutors said Aguilar asked her and Robinson’s roommate to lie and tell detectives they were home when Guillén was killed. The roommate eventually told police they were gone all night and said Aguilar told him Robinson had sex with Guillen’s body. It was believed that Robinson was allegedly sexually assaulting Guillén before her death though no official reports were filed. Robinson was one of the last people in touch with Guillén according to cellphone records, court documents revealed.

“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,” Jaime Esparza, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, said. “Ms. Aguilar’s actions were indefensible, and she will now face the maximum penalty for the choices she made.

A U.S. Army investigation determined that she had been sexually harassed by a supervisor, and that the leaders in her unit did not take appropriate action after she stepped forward.  She had informally reported it twice and while the investigation found no correlation between her death and the sexual harassment, the report did find that Robinson sexually harassed a different female soldier at Fort Cavazos.

President Joe Biden signed into law provisions from the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, which mandated that prosecution decisions about sexual assault and harassment would be moved outside of a soldier’s chain of command. It would also criminalized sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

During her testimony,  Vanessa’s mother Gloria spoke about the distress and agony she and her two other daughters including Lupe, the youngest Guillén, suffered as a result of Vanessa’s disappearance and death.

“I’m here for one reason, for my daughter because I feel pain in my heart, ” she said through tears. “She was a tremendous human being. She was a little girl with enthusiasm for life. She wanted to study, to get married, to have kids. We loved each other very much.”

“When she wanted to go into the Army, I disagreed. I could feel in my heart it wasn’t for her. But she told me, ‘God tells me I should go and I’m going to go. Nothing bad is going to happen to me. Let me go,’” Gloria recounted, “I don’t know if you have children, but children give us life and we will give our life for our children.”

The family and their work to keep Vanessa’s memory alive through the I Am Vanessa Guillén act was the basis for the Netflix documentary, I Am Vanessa Guillén. Following the sentencing, Mayra posted on social media saying “rest easy, sister… I learned so many details regarding your death after the fact of it’s been 3 years. My heart hurts.”

The Guilléns sued the Defense Department last year seeking $35 million in damages for Guillén’s wrongful death. A trial date in federal court will be set in coming weeks, the family’s attorney Natalie Khawam, said Monday.

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