U.S. Army officials at Fort Hood today said that there is no evidence that a male soldier who killed himself this week to avoid police capture sexually assaulted 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who has been missing from the Texas post since April.
During a news conference, Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent Damon Phelps named the now-deceased soldier as Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who was assigned to A. Company, 3rd Cavalry Regiment at the time Guillen, a fellow 3rd Cavalry soldier, disappeared April 22.
Before the event, Natalie Khawam, an attorney representing Guillen's family, announced that CID officials told her that Robinson had murdered her in the unit armory on the day of her disappearance.
"The murderer sexually harassed her and then killed her," the Whistleblower Law Firm attorney, told Military.com in a statement. "We believe he murdered her because he was going to report him.
"This gruesome murder should never have happened."
Law enforcement officials attempted to make contact with Robinson, 20, on Tuesday in Killeen, Texas, but he displayed a weapon and took his own life, Phelps said during the news conference.
"We are still investigating their interactions, but at this point, there is no credible information of reports that Spc. Robinson sexually harassed Spc. Guillen," Phelps said.
Phelps would not comment on the allegations made by Khawam that Robinson murdered her because it is still an ongoing investigation.
Officials did not identify a civilian woman they arrested Tuesday in connection with Guillen's disappearance, described earlier as the estranged wife of a former soldier. She remains in custody in the Bell County Jail awaiting charges by civilian authorities.
Fort Hood officials said that the human remains discovered recently have not been identified. They did not confirm details cited by Khawam about where specifically remains were found and what condition they were in.
Army officials said on Tuesday that they found partial human remains near the Leon River about 30 miles outside Fort Hood. The remains have been sent to a forensic anthropologist for analysis, though no official confirmation on the identity of the remains has been completed.
"Our agents are working very closely with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner to expedite identification of the remains," Phelps said. "We will release information on those remains as soon as we can and after notification is made with the next of kin."
Army officials also stressed repeatedly at the news conference that there is "no credible information" that Guillen was the victim of sexual harassment or assault.
"The criminal investigation has not found any connection between sexual harassment and Vanessa's disappearance," Maj. Scott Efflandt, deputy commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said. "However, all sexual harassment allegations are being investigated, as they are in every other instance."
At Efflandt's request, Army Forces Command ordered a seven-member inspector general team to Fort Hood to review the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, (SHARP). The inspection will assess whether the command climate at Hood is supportive of soldiers reporting sexual harassment and seek to identify any potential systemic issues within the program at Hood, Efflandt said.
Phelps said investigators are aware Guillen's family members made statements early on to the media concerning sexual harassment allegations.
He acknowledged that agents uncovered statements on May 7 that could be considered sexual harassment.
"After subsequent investigation, another allegation of verbal harassment involving the same individual was discovered. However subsequent interviews have failed to [confirm] this allegation," Phelps said. "Nevertheless, we are still investigating."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.