Mother of Slain Latina Soldier Katia Dueñas-Aguilar Seeks Justice

Private First Class Katia Dueñas-Aguilar was found dead and how her family is asking the community for support as they seek answers

_Katia Duenas Aguilar

When the story of Vanessa Guillén made headlines, it raised awareness of sexual assault in the military and helped amplify women’s stories about SA, especially women of color. Now another Latina soldier is making headlines following her untimely death. Private First Class Katia Dueñas-Aguilar was found dead by first responders on May 18 inside a home in Clarksville, Tennessee and it’s been ruled a homicide with the investigation still ongoing. The 23-year-old, originally from Texas, had been stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky since 2019 and has worked as a information technology specialist and member of the 101st Airborne Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade. Her family and The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have joined forces to offer a reward of $55,000 total for information leading to an arrest and conviction. The Clarksville Police Department and Army criminal investigators are working together on the investigation, the Associated Press reported.

“There is something strange about my daughter’s death,” Katia’s mother, Carmen Dueñas-Aguilar, told Telemundo in Spanish.“I ask for justice. As everyone knows, this is not the first [case], there have been several others,” she added, referencing other Latina soldiers whose deaths were under similar circumstances.

“We’re not all good. We want to believe that it’s a nightmare, that we can wake up and she will still be there,” Cecilia Ruiz-Aguilar, the soldier’s sister, said Saturday during a news conference in Texas where the family lives.

About four years ago, Mexican American soldier Vanessa Guillén was murdered in Fort Hood, now known as Fort Cavazos, leading to protests and investigations into the sexual harassment she had allegedly experienced, which lead to the Vanessa Guillén Act to help improve the process of reporting sexual assault in the military. Just last year, 20-year-old Pvt. Ana Basaldua Ruiz, another Latina Fort Hood soldier, was found dead leading to questioning and requests for further investigation into her death which was ultimately ruled a suicide though sexual harassment was allegedly also an issue in her case.

Katia, who is survived by her mother and 4-year-old son, had previously expressed to her family that she was planning on leaving the Army. “She would already tell me that she’s not happy over there and I wanted her to come back so we could make more memories,” Cecilia told CBS News.

A source told, that she was set to leave the Army in early May due to marijuana use, which is prohibited in the military. Her contract, however was extended, allowing her to reenlist. While she had planned to leave and return to her family in Texas, her family says she decided to stay after speaking with an army counselor. 

Katia earned two Army Achievement Medals, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon. Katia’s mother questions why she decided against leaving the Army despite her initial desire to, highlighting the lack of mental health support for soldiers like Katia. 

“My daughter is dead, and no one is going to stop it. Help me get justice for her and those who passed away. I never thought I’d be living this, and now I am.” Carmen said, the Leaf Chronicle reported. “I don’t understand why they don’t have better psychological assistance because those people are the ones who take care of us and our community.”

Lt. Col. Tony Hoefler, a spokesperson for the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, told NBC News that soldiers are getting ready to bring Katia’s body to Texas for her funeral on Friday, May 31 where she will receive military honors.

Police are asking anyone with information regarding the woman’s death to call the department at 931-648-0656, ext. 5720. To remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward, call the Clarksville/Montgomery County Crime Stopper tip line at 931-645-8477 or go online.

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