In an emotional interview, the family of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, the Fort Hood, Texas, soldier who was allegedly murdered by a fellow male soldier, said Friday that they are determined to make sure that other soldiers never face a similar fate.
"She was taken away from me in the most horrible way, yet they take it as if it was a joke. My sister is no joke. My sister is a human being," Vanessa's sister, Lupe, said during an interview on ABC13.com.
Fort Hood leaders announced Monday that they had briefed the family Sunday that human remains found in Bell County had been identified as Guillen's through DNA analysis.
The 20-year-old 3rd Cavalry Regiment soldier who disappeared April 22 was allegedly murdered by Spc. Aaron Robinson, according to a July 2 criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas.
Police attempted to apprehend Robinson on June 30, but he produced a firearm and took his own life, Army investigators have said.
"Speak about it because we cannot let this happen again; we cannot just say, 'Oh, the man killed himself,'" Lupe said. "My sister was taken away. It could have been your sister, your friend."
Federal authorities filed a criminal complaint charging 22-year-old Cecily Aguilar, a civilian and the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier, with conspiracy to tamper with evidence in Guillen's disappearance, according to the complaint.
Robinson told Aguilar that he killed Guillen "by striking her in the head with a hammer" while on base April 22 and smuggled her body to a remote site in Bell County, according to the complaint. Aguilar allegedly then helped Robinson mutilate and dispose of Guillen's body.
Speaking in Spanish, Vanessa's mother, Gloria, told ABC13 that Fort Hood officials were "clowns in a circus" who had lied to her.
Military.com contacted Fort Hood for comment on the interview but did not receive an immediate response.
ABC13 reported that Gloria wants Congress to investigate the post's handling of the case.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, recently signed a letter calling on Pentagon Acting Inspector General Sean O'Donnell to conduct "a full investigation of the circumstances surrounding SPC Guillen's disappearance."
Fort Hood officials have said that they are open to independent review. Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, deputy commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, in late June requested that Army Forces Command send a seven-member inspector general team to the post to determine whether its Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, or SHARP, was working effectively and properly offering support to soldiers.
This is not enough for Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, who recently requested that the Government Accountability Office conduct an immediate review of the Army's implementation of SHARP.
"Unfortunately, recent high-profile incidents raise troubling questions about whether SHARP is achieving its objectives, let alone preventing sexual harassment and assault," Duckworth said in a news release.
"To best inform congressional oversight of the Army's SHARP program activities, the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, and individual Members of Congress, would benefit from GAO -- a congressional support agency that is independent of DoD -- conducting a comprehensive review into the SHARP program's effectiveness that includes surveys of soldiers addressing individual experiences with, and perceptions of, the SHARP program."
Vanessa's sister, Mayra, said the family is still in shock over her death.
"I still can't accept it, to be honest," she told ABC13. "It's been really ... like I am dreaming, and I just don't accept it. It's been really hard."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.