Cecily Aguilar, the woman charged in the 2020 killing of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.
Aguilar pleaded guilty last year to one count of accessory after the fact, and three counts of making a false statement. Aguilar’s boyfriend at the time, Spc. Aaron Robinson, is accused of killing and dismembering Guillen, and then recruiting Aguilar to help dispose of his body near Fort Cavazos, Texas, then known as Fort Hood.
Robinson died by suicide as authorities closed in on him in 2020, making Aguilar the only person charged in connection with Guillen’s death.
“Our hope is that today’s sentence brings a sense of relief and justice to the Guillen family, who have suffered such pain these past few years,” US Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas said in a news release Monday. “Ms. Aguilar’s actions are indefensible, and he will now face the maximum penalty for the choices he made.
A news release from federal prosecutors in Texas last year said from April 22, 2020, to July 1, 2020, Aguilar assisted Robinson “in corruptly altering, destroying, cutting and concealing the evidence—namely, the body of Vanessa Guillen—to prevent Robinson from being charged and prosecuted for any crime.”
The release goes on to say that Aguilar “altered and destroyed information” from Robinson’s Google account and made four “materially false statements” to federal investigators.
He received the maximum sentence for his role in the crimes – 30 years, prosecutors said.
Guillen, who was a 20-year-old private first class at the time of his death, went missing in April 2020. His family, investigators and civilian volunteers searched the area surrounding Fort Cavazos for weeks without His body was discovered in a shallow grave on June 30.
It was later revealed that Robinson killed Guillen in an armory room by beating him with a hammer. According to court documents, Robinson then placed Guillen’s body in a box and drove him to the Leon River, about 20 miles from the base.
He then pulled Aguilar from his job and the two returned, allegedly dismembering Guillen and attempting to set his body on fire before burying it in three separate holes, according to court records.
Guillen’s story resulted in a wave of new policies for the Army and the military in general. After her disappearance, women flooded social media with their own stories of sexual assault and harassment by the military, using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen.
In 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law provisions from the “I Am Vanessa Guillen” Act, which mandated that prosecutorial decisions regarding sexual assault and harassment be moved outside the soldier’s chain of command – a significant change for the military. The act also criminalizes sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
In her statement to the court on Monday, and shared by CNN, Natalie Khawam, the lawyer representing Guillen’s family, said that Aguilar’s sentence “should set an example for anyone who thinks about cutting, destroying, and/or hiding a body.”
“Your honor, Vanessa Guillen has served this country,” Khawam said. “You must set the appropriate precedent now so that evil acts like this never happen again in our area.”