Aaron Robinson was a suspect in the murder and disappearance of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood in Texas April 22, 2020. Robinson died by suicide before his arrest, and investigators are still trying to piece together what prompted the U.S. Army specialist’s killer to target her.
Robinson was a 20-year-old enlisted soldier from Calumet City, Illinois, according to ABC News. Before he joined the Army, he played football at Thornton Fractional North High School. He was deployed to Iraq for about seven months in 2018.
The case is being examined on ABC 20/20 in a two-hour special, “I Am Vanessa,” which airs at 9/8 C Friday, September 11, 2020.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Aaron Robinson & Vanessa Guillen Worked in a Building Adjacent From Each Other; He Was the Last Person She Texted
Our entire Chavez Community is heartbroken with today’s news. We extend our deepest condolences and offer our thoughts and prayers to the Guillen family. May they be protected in these most difficult times. pic.twitter.com/LJYc8maCx0
— César E. Chavez High School (@ChavezHS_HISD) July 2, 2020
Specialist Vanessa Guillen worked in a building at Fort Hood that was adjacent to Specialist Aaron Robinson’s work area. According to The New York Times, investigators found Robinson was the last person Guillen texted. On the day of her disappearance, April 22, 2020, Guillen was on call due to COVID-19, according to the U.S. Army.
“She was called the night before by supervisors and was instructed that she was needed to complete her arms room inventory because she was an essential Military Occupational Specialty,” the Army said in a statement. “This is why she was in workout clothes, it was supposed to be a quick day to conduct the inventory.”
Around noon that day, Guillen left the arms room where she was conducting inventory and went into Robinson’s arms room to confirm serial numbers for weapons and equipment, The New York Times reported, referencing the criminal complaint. Robinson told investigators he read her the serial numbers and gave her paperwork, and said he believed she went to the motor pool, where vehicles are kept.
2. Witnesses Told Investigators They Saw Robinson Moving a Heavy Box After Her Disappearance & Her Belongings Were Found in the Armory Room
Guillen was last seen at about noon April 22, 2020. She was reported missing the next day, and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division launched an investigation. Her car keys, room key, ID and wallet were found in the armory room where she had been working the day before. Her specialty was 91F, repairing small weapons and artillery, according to the U.S. Army.
Two witnesses told investigators that on the day Guillen went missing, they saw Robinson pulling a large “tough box” with wheels “that appeared very heavy in weight,” from the arms room, the New York Times reported. Cecily Aguilar, Robinson’s girlfriend and a civilian, was arrested as an alleged accomplice to Robinson. She told authorities that Robinson hit Guillen in the head repeatedly with a hammer, killing her. He told her he hid Guillen’s body in a large box, court documents filed in the case indicated.
Aguilar is charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence, accused of helping Robinson dismember the body and burn Guillen’s remains. She could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, The Times reported.
3. Guillen Allegedly Discovered an Affair Between Robinson & the Estranged Wife of a Former Soldier, According to Her Family Attorney
Guillen’s family attorney, Natalie Khawam, told ABC News Guillen had discovered Robinson had an affair with the wife of an estranged soldier. The wife was Cecily Aguilar, who would later be charged in connection with Guillen’s disappearance.
Aguilar and Robinson had lived together briefly at the time of Guillen’s murder. He called her to confess he killed Guillen with a hammer, according to USA Today. Investigators discovered multiple phone calls between Robinson and Aguilar around the time of Guillen’s disappearance, which discredited Robinson’s alibi that he was with Aguilar at the time, ABC News reported. Aguilar later told investigators she and Robinson went for a drive to look at stars that night.
Natalie Khawam, Guillen’s family attorney, told the Army Times Robinson contacted Aguilar “to help him bury her bloody body.” She added, “At first they tried to set her on fire, but she wouldn’t burn. Then they dismembered this beautiful U.S. soldier’s body with a machete.”
4. Robinson Shot Himself With a Pistol & Died As Police Approached Him
Army officials reveal new details in Vanessa Guillen case. https://t.co/Noh8FYplVj
— ABC News (@ABC) September 10, 2020
Robinson, a 20-year-old enlisted soldier from Calumet City, Illinois, was placed under the watch of an unarmed escort before his arrest, according to 20/20. He was not detained or in police custody at the time. He had been identified as a suspect because his cellphone location showed he was in the area where Guillen’s remains were found after her disappearance, officials said on the show.
As information surfaced that remains were found near the Leon River, Robinson fled his post, officials said during a July 2, 2020 press conference. Killeen police were closing in on Robinson when he shot himself. Army officials did not say how he obtained the gun.
Major General Donna Martin, the Army’s provost marshal who heads the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, told 20/20 the gun “was not a government weapon. So he did not get it from his arms room.”
She blamed the media for “tipping” off Robinson, leading him to realize investigators may have strong evidence against him.
“All of this is unfolding at the same exact time… What we didn’t maybe expect was the media broadcast,” she said. “The media broadcast was really kind of what we believe to be the tipping point for Spc. Robinson to flee.”
5. Army Officials Said Their Investigation Ruled Out Robinson Sexually Harassing Guillen
‘I Am Vanessa Guillen’ | Witness the fight for justice in this true-crime mystery. Now, stunning new unreported details & new exclusive interviews. The powerful all-new 20/20 event special airs Friday at 9|8c on ABC. pic.twitter.com/sdXkC7U4bm
— 20/20 (@ABC2020) September 8, 2020
Guillen told her two sisters, Lupe and Mayra, and her mother, Gloria, that she was having problems at Fort Hood. She said one of her superiors was sexually harassing her, and repeated the allegations to fellow soldiers. Guillen had said the superior watched her shower.
Robinson, who was identified as a suspect in her murder and died by suicide before his arrest, was not her superior and was not in her chain of command, said Special Agent Damon Phelps of the Criminal Investigation Command during a July 2, 2020 press conference.
The U.S. Army said July 6, 2020, that it was investigating the sexual harassment allegations.
“The 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood appointed an investigating team led by a senior Investigating Officer (IO) to conduct a commander’s investigation, referred to as an ‘Army Regulation 15-6 Investigation’ into allegations that Vanessa Guillén was sexually harassed,” the statement said. “An Army Regulation 15-6 investigation is the Army’s standard method of investigation and is used to collect and analyze facts and make recommendations based on those facts. The IO will gather the evidence, thoroughly and impartially consider it, and make findings and recommendations. Once the investigation is complete, the IO will present the findings and recommendations to the unit’s command for his review. Fort Hood units continue to aggressively search for Vanessa Guillén.”
Martin told 20/20 they ruled out Robinson harassing Guillen “very early” in their investigation.