Suspect in Vanessa Guillen case pleads guilty to multiple federal charges

Cecily Aguilar pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after the fact.

November 29, 2022, 6:24 PM

A woman accused of helping Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen's suspected killer dismember and dispose of her body pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges on Tuesday, weeks before her trial was scheduled to start.

Cecily Aguilar, 24, was indicted last year on 11 federal charges. She pleaded guilty to four of them in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Waco -- one count of accessory to murder after the fact and three counts of false statement or representation.

Aguilar faces a maximum possible penalty of 30 years in prison, plus three years of supervised release and a $1 million fine, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas.

A sentencing date has not yet been set.

PHOTO: Cecily Aguilar is seen in this undated booking photo.
Cecily Aguilar is seen in this undated booking photo.
Bell County Sheriff's Office

Several of Guillen's family members traveled to Waco to attend the hearing in person.

"Please God. Let justice prevail. Give my self & my parents the strength we need as we face her in court ..." her sister, Mayra Guillen, tweeted beforehand, calling Aguilar a "monster" in another tweet.

Mayra Guillen said she was surprised by the guilty plea and had expected Aguilar to "keep fighting back."

"Still a lot of mixed emotions -- it's both anger and frustration," she told reporters following the hearing. "Now we have to wait for the actual sentencing."

When asked what she was hoping for as far as the sentencing, Mayra Guillen said, "I comfort myself in knowing that she will be locked up for most of the rest of her life."

"I hope she has time to sit down and think about what it is that she did and how she impacted our life," she said. "Not only our life, but a lot of people that know Vanessa's name."

ABC News did not immediately receive a response to an email seeking comment from Aguilar's attorneys.

Aguilar was indicted by a grand jury on the charges a month after a Texas judge denied her attorneys' motion asking that her confession in the crime be thrown out. She previously entered a plea of not guilty during an arraignment in August 2021. A jury trial in the case had been scheduled to start in January 2023.

Vanessa Guillen, 20, was a Fort Hood Army specialist who disappeared in April 2020. Her remains were found two months later near the Leon River in Belton, Texas.

Fellow soldier Aaron David Robinson -- Aguilar's boyfriend at the time -- was one of the last people in touch with Vanessa Guillen based on cellphone records, according to court documents.

The indictment accused Aguilar and Robinson of dismembering, destroying and concealing Vanessa Guillen's body, then making false statements to prevent themselves from being charged with any crime.

Prosecutors said Vanessa Guillen was bludgeoned to death with a hammer by Robinson in the armory of the Killeen, Texas, military base, on April 22, 2020, according to the criminal complaint.

PHOTO: Vanessa Guillen's family is still looking for answers as to why she was killed, and how her murderer escaped justice.
Vanessa Guillen's family is still looking for answers as to why she was killed, and how her murderer escaped justice.
Guillen Family

An attorney for Vanessa Guillen's family has said investigators told her that Vanessa Guillen and Robinson had an argument after she discovered his relationship with Aguilar, the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier.

Robinson told Aguilar that he killed Vanessa Guillen with a hammer, transferred her body off the Army base, and then the two of them dismembered, attempted to burn and buried her remains near the Leon River, according to the complaint.

While searching Robinson's phone records, investigators found that Robinson had called Aguilar multiple times on the night Vanessa Guillen vanished. The calls raised suspicion, as Robinson initially told investigators he had been with Aguilar all night. Aguilar later changed her story, claiming that she and Robinson went on a drive to look at the stars that night, according to court documents.

During the investigation into Vanessa Guillen's disappearance, Aguilar ultimately made "four materially false statements to federal investigators," the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas said.

When investigators found Vanessa Guillen's remains near the Leon River on June 30, 2020, they confronted Aguilar, after which they say she confessed.

Robinson died by suicide in July 2020 when confronted by police.

Months before Vanessa Guillen was killed, her family said she told them she was being sexually harassed by a superior.

A U.S. Army investigation determined that Vanessa Guillen was sexually harassed by a supervisor, and that the leaders in her unit did not take appropriate action after she stepped forward.

The family has been seeking to reform the way the military handles sexual assault and harassment cases since her death.

Natalie Khawam, the attorney for the Guillen family, called Aguilar's guilty plea "another step on the long path toward justice for Vanessa, my client and her courageous family."