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Texas woman pleads guilty in connection with killing of Vanessa Guillén

CBS News 11/30/2022 Emily Mae Czachor

A woman who allegedly helped hide the body of former Vanessa Guillén after her death at Fort Hood has pleaded guilty to various charges in connection with the disappearance of the U.S. Army specialist, the Department of Justice announced on Tuesday. 

Cecily Aguilar, 24, of Killeen, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of accessory to murder and three counts of false representation or making a false statement, the DOJ said, adding that she faces a maximum possible penalty of 30 years imprisonment with three additional years of supervised release, plus a $1 million fine. A federal district court judge will review U.S. sentencing guidelines and statutes in order to determine any sentence for Aguilar, expected at a sentencing hearing that has not yet been scheduled.

"Cecily Aguilar's guilty plea today was another step on the long path toward justice for Vanessa, my client, and her courageous family," attorney Natalie Khawam, who represents the Guillén family, said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

Guillén was found dead on the base at Fort Hood — which notoriously has some of the highest rates of murder, sexual assault and harassment in the Army — in the summer of 2020. A fellow soldier and specialist named Aaron Robinson is suspected to have murdered her before later dying himself by suicide, officials said at the time. Aguilar, a second suspect, is identified as the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier, was also arrested in connection with Guillén's death. 

A mural of Vanessa Guillen in Austin on July 6, 2020. / Credit: Sergio Flores / Getty © Provided by CBS News A mural of Vanessa Guillen in Austin on July 6, 2020. / Credit: Sergio Flores / Getty

Citing court documents, the DOJ said that Aguilar assisted Robinson between April 22 and July 1, 2020, "in corruptly altering, destroying, mutilating and concealing evidence—that is, the body of Vanessa Guillen—in order to prevent Robinson from being charged with and prosecuted for any crime." The documents allege that Aguilar altered and destroyed information stored in a Google account belonging to Robinson, and also accuse her of making four materially false statements to federal investigators, according to the Justice Department. 

The following year, in April 2021, the U.S. Army released a report that showed how officers had ignored complaints of sexual harassment from Guillén, leading 21 soldiers to be either relieved of duty entirely or reprimanded for their parts in those dismissals. The Guillén family then filed a lawsuit seeking $35 million in damages from the U.S. government on the basis of sexual harassment, abuse, assault, rape, sodomy and wrongful death.

A recent Netflix documentary titled "I Am Vanessa Guillén" shed light on the case.

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