US Army investigation finds Vanessa Guillen was sexually harassed

The harassment was not by the soldier who allegedly murdered her, a review said.

April 30, 2021, 6:27 PM

A long-awaited U.S. Army investigation released Friday has determined that murdered Spc. Vanessa Guillen was sexually harassed by a supervisor, as her family had claimed, and that the leaders in her unit at Fort Hood, Texas, did not take appropriate action after she stepped forward.

Twenty-one soldiers have now been reprimanded or disciplined as a result of their handling of the Guillen case and investigators have also found that the incidents of harassment were not related to Guillen's murder and were not carried out by the fellow soldier who is alleged to have killed her in 2020.

The command investigation, known by the Army regulation 15-6, determined that Guillen was sexually harassed on two occasions by one of her supervisors.

"SPC Guillen was sexually harassed by a supervisor. This supervisor created an intimidating, hostile environment," the report said. "The unit leadership was informed of the harassment as well as the supervisor’s counterproductive leadership, and failed to take appropriate action."

PHOTO: Traffic flows through the main gate past a welcome sign, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas.
Traffic flows through the main gate past a welcome sign, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas.
Tony Gutierrez/AP, FILE

"While the investigating officer did find evidence of sexual harassment and mistreatment toward SPC Guillen, after examining all the evidence and witness statements, he determined that those incidents were not related to her murder," said the report.

Authorities have said Army Spc. Aaron Robinson is believed to have murdered Guillen on April 22, 2020, the day that her disappearance triggered a large search for her on the base. Robinson died by suicide on June 30, 2020, as police closed in on him as the main suspect in her disappearance and murder.

The investigation does not provide a potential motive for Guillen's murder and raises even more questions since it found "no credible evidence to conclude Spc. Robinson sexually harassed Spc. Guillén or that they had any relationship outside of their work setting, only that he had a work relationship with Guillen.

PHOTO:  The III Corps Headquarters is seen on the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas, April 3, 2014.
The III Corps Headquarters is seen on the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas, April 3, 2014.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images, FILE

Investigators determined that Robinson had not sexually harassed Guillen, but that he had harassed another female enlisted soldier the previous year.

Guillen's family has maintained that she had told them she had been sexually harassed by a supervisor and had tied the incident to her murder.

The allegations led to a reckoning within the military community that led to current and former members to step forward with their own experiences as victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

“We found many inconsistencies in this report," Natalie Khawam, the Guillen family's attorney, told ABC News in a statement. "Vanessa’s case was severely mishandled, and therefore this report reflects a lot of damage control."

"It’s heartbreaking and frustrating for all of us," said Khawam, who expressed concerns from the family that the soldier who harassed Guillen was not identified in the report. "So much failure, from the Commanders down."

"Unfortunately nothing has happened to the [Criminal Investigation Command] agents that mishandled and botched this investigation, so unfortunately nothing will change for our soldiers and their families," she said. Khawam and the Guillen family have advocated for the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act that would lead to changes in how sexual harassment cases are handled by the military.

"Without the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, there will never be any real accountability and our soldiers and their families will continue to suffer," said Khawam.

The investigation also provided new details about how Robinson was able to flee the base as investigators closed in on him as the primary suspect in Guillen's disappearance.

"Poor communication" with the enlisted soldiers keeping watch over him in a conference room contributed to his being able to flee the room, the report said.

Army criminal investigators were faulted for not communicating that Robinson was "a Soldier of heightened interest rather than just another Soldier for a follow-up interview."

During the summer of 2019, one of Guillen's supervisors made "an inappropriate sexual comment in Spanish which SPC Guillen translated as a solicitation for her to participate in a 'threesome'," according to the investigation.

After those comments, another supervisor "noticed a marked change in her demeanor, which prompted the supervisor to ask if she was okay," said the report. "It was then that SPC Guillen reported the incident to her supervisor and another Soldier."

"Between 16 September 2019 and 9 October 2019, two Soldiers reported this incident to her unit leadership, who failed to initiate an investigation," said the report.

The investigation determined that the supervisor who had made the comments to Guillen "was unprofessional" and then engaged in "counterproductive behaviors" like targeting her in front of peers to make "an example out of her."

During a later field training exercise, Guillen felt "uncomfortable" after the supervisor" encountered Guillen while she was engaging in personal hygiene by a wood line, the report said.

Last December, the Army fired or suspended 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Hood, including two generals, following an independent panel's investigation into the command climate at the base.

Six of those soldiers relieved of duty in December were among the 21 soldiers who received administrative punishments as a result of the investigation released on Friday.

Army officials said Friday they were not at liberty to disclose the identity or rank of the supervisor who had allegedly sexually harassed Guillen.

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