Aaron Robinson was named by law enforcement as the suspected murderer of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood in Texas April 22, 2020. Robinson died by suicide before his arrest, preventing him from ever facing formal charges.
Today, Guillen’s family is still calling for justice for the slain soldier. She was a 20-year-old specialist in the Army who worked in a building adjacent to Robinson. Her specialty was 91F, which involved repairing small weapons and artillery. 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 was first examined on ABC 20/20 in a two-hour special, “I Am Vanessa,” which aired September 11, 2020. Now, 20/20 is taking a fresh look at the case, and speaking to her fiance and family members.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Guillen Texted Robinson Shortly Before She Was Killed, & Law Enforcement Discovered He Was the Last Person She Communicated With on Her Cellphone
Guillen and Robinson worked in buildings at Fort Hood that were adjacent to one another, and investigators learned that Robinson was the last person Guillen ever communicated with on her cellphone, according to The New York Times. She was on call due to COVID-19 on the day of her disappearance, April 22, 2020, the U.S. Army said in a statement.
She was in workout clothes, and expected to have a short day conducting inventory in the arms room, the statement said.
“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 statement said. “This is why she was in workout clothes, it was supposed to be a quick day to conduct the inventory.”
At about noon, she left the arms room and went to Robinson’s room so she could confirm serial numbers for some weapons and other equipment, The New York Times reported. In interviews with law enforcement, Robinson claimed he read the serial numbers to her and gave her paperwork, the Times reported from the criminal complaint. He said he thought she left for the motor pool afterward, the report continued.
2. Witnesses Told Investigators That After Guillen Disappeared, They Saw Robinson Moving a Heavy Box
Guillen was reported missing the day after her disappearance, April 23, 2020, and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division launched an investigation, according to the U.S. Army. Investigators discovered that some of her personal possessions, such as her car keys, room key, ID and wallet, were left behind in the armory room where she had been working the day before, the statement said.
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, implicated Robinson in the murder, according to The Times. She said Robinson beat Guillen to death with a hammer and hid her body in a large box, according to the criminal complaint reviewed by The Times.
Aguilar was arrested as an accomplice in the case. She was charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence and she was accused of helping Robinson dismember the body and burn Guillen’s remains, The Times reported. Her charge carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison, the article said.
3. Guillen Allegedly Discovered an Affair Between Robinson & Aguilar, the Estranged Wife of a Former Soldier, According to Guillen’s Family Attorney
Before she was murdered, officials said Guillen made a discovery that may have prompted the killing. 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 Aguilar, who would later be charged in connection with Guillen’s disappearance and as an accomplice to Robinson.
Aguilar and Robinson were living together at the time of Guillen’s murder, and USA Today reported Robinson called Aguilar to confess to the murder. Cellphone records indicated Robinson and Aguilar spoke on the phone multiple times around the time of Aguilar’s disappearance, the article said. Robinson had told investigators he was with Aguilar at the time, and the records discredited his alibi, according to ABC News. That night, Aguilar claimed in interviews with investigators, they had gone for a drive to look at stars, according to ABC News.
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 to Place Him Under Arrest
Robinson 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 due to his cellphone records, which indicated he was in the area where Guillen’s remains were found soon after she disappeared, law enforcement said on the show.
Information was leaked that Guillen’s remains were found near the Leon River, and Robinson fled his post, officials said during a July 2, 2020 press conference. Killeen police were dispatched to take him into custody, and they were approaching him when he shot himself, they said during the press conference.
Major General Donna Martin, the Army’s provost marshal who heads the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, told 20/20 the gun Robinson used “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
Guillen’s family has continually said there was more to the story of Guillen’s murder than what the U.S. Army has said in its public statements. Before she was killed, Guillen told her two sisters, Lupe and Mayra, and her mother, Gloria, that she was having problems at Fort Hood, according to 20/20. She said one of her superiors was sexually harassing her, and she told the same thing to several of her fellow soldiers, family members said on the show. She said the superior officer had watched her shower, according to ABC News.
Robinson 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.