Suspect in Vanessa Guillen case pleads guilty to multiple federal charges
A woman accused of helping the alleged killer of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen dismember and dispose of her body pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges on Tuesday, weeks before her trial began.
Cecily Aguilar, 24, was charged last year with 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 sentence 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.
Several members of Guillen’s family traveled to Waco to attend the hearing in person.
“Please God. Let justice prevail. Give me myself & my parents the strength we need to face her in court…” her sister, Mayra Guillen, tweeted beforehand, calling Aguilar a “monster” in another Tweeter.
Mayra Guillen said she was surprised by the guilty plea and expected Aguilar to “keep fighting.”
“Always a lot of mixed emotions – it’s both anger and frustration,” she told reporters after the hearing. “Now we have to wait for sentencing.”
When asked what she hopes for in terms of sentencing, Mayra Guillen said: ‘I take comfort 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 reflect on what she has done and the impact she has had on our lives,” she said. “Not just our life, but a lot of people who 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 lawyers’ motion to have her confession to the crime thrown out. She previously pleaded not guilty to an arraignment in August 2021. A jury trial in that case was scheduled to begin in January 2023.
Vanessa Guillen, 20, was an Army specialist from Fort Hood 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 contact with Vanessa Guillen based on cellphone records, according to court documents.
The indictment charges Aguilar and Robinson with dismembering, destroying and concealing Vanessa Guillen’s body, then making false statements to avoid being charged with any crime.
Prosecutors said Vanessa Guillen was bludgeoned to death with a hammer by Robinson in the armory at Killeen Army Base, Texas on April 22, 2020, according to the criminal complaint.
An attorney for Vanessa Guillen’s family said investigators told her that Vanessa Guillen and Robinson had a falling out after discovering her relationship with Aguilar, the ex-wife of a former Fort Hood soldier.
Robinson told Aguilar he killed Vanessa Guillen with a hammer, moved her body out of the army base, then the two of them dismembered each other, tried to burn and bury her remains near the river Leon, according to the complaint.
While searching Robinson’s phone records, investigators found that Robinson called Aguilar multiple times the night Vanessa Guillen went missing. The calls raised suspicion, as Robinson initially told investigators he had been with Aguilar all night. Aguilar later changed her story, saying she and Robinson drove 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 body 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 her unit leaders failed to take appropriate action after she came forward.
The family has been seeking to reform the way the military handles cases of sexual assault and harassment since his death.
Natalie Khawam, the Guillen family’s attorney, called Aguilar’s guilty plea “another step on the long road to justice for Vanessa, my client and her brave family.”