Vanessa Guillen's killer escaped custody after her remains were found, didn't harass her sexually: Officials
The disappearance of 20-year-old Guillen, who told her family she was being sexually exploited by a superior, grabbed national headlines in April before it came to light she was allegedly killed in an arms room by fellow soldier Spc. Aaron Robinson on April 22
The Fort Hood soldier who allegedly killed Vanessa Guillen escaped from temporary custody after he read news reports that her remains had been found. He obtained a gun and killed himself shortly after. The disappearance of 20-year-old Guillen, who told her family she was being sexually exploited by a superior, grabbed national headlines in April before it came to light she was allegedly killed in an arms room on April 22 by fellow soldier Spc. Aaron Robinson, who was ranked above her at the time and therefore fit the description of her alleged abuser. It has been said that Robinson killed Guillen with a hammer before he and his girlfriend Cecily Aguilar dismembered and buried her remains near the Leon River in Belton, the Daily Mail reported.
Now, officials say media coverage of the discovery of Guillen's remains "tipped" Robinson off as he read the updates on his phone before fleeing the authorities. At first, Robinson had an alibi, which military officials say further prolonged the investigation. While Robinson was assumed to be the last person to see her alive, three soldiers at the base claimed they saw Guillen outside the arms room the day she vanished - and this threw off the probe for an entire month, according to Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, the Army’s provost marshal who leads the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command.
Speaking to ABC's 20/20 in a new special that will air Friday, Martin noted how the three soldiers said they saw her leave at "a time that would’ve indicated she had left Spc. Robinson’s arms room." The investigation centered around the parking lot of the arms room, but there were no cameras in the vicinity.
"They filled out affidavits that said they had seen Vanessa at a different time from when she had actually departed the other arms room," Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told ABC. "So that gave … essentially an instant alibi for Spc. Robinson, even though they had not really known the correct time of when she had actually departed and headed to the parking lot."
"The trail went cold for about a month," he added.
Investigators found Robinson had called his girlfriend Aguilar several times the night Guillen vanished. This raised suspicion considering he had initially told them he had been with his girlfriend all night.
According to court documents, Aguilar also changed her story - saying she and her boyfriend went on a drive to look at the stars that night. Investigators finally found Guillen's remains near the Leon River on June 30. That day, Robinson was placed in a room under the watch of an unarmed escort after authorities became suspicious about his possible role in Guillen's death. They found that his phone pinged late at night in the same vicinity as Guillen’s remains, thereby invalidating his alibi. Army officials said Robinson wasn't officially detained but was under the watch of an unarmed guard and was able to get away.
"He was not in police custody because of [how] the legal process works," Martin explained.
As Robinson began to escape from the base, his escort chased him. "He gets in a vehicle and he flees and he leaves Fort Hood," Martin told ABC. Robinson was finally stopped after local law enforcement began a hot pursuit, but as they closed in on him, he shot himself. While officials did not reveal where Robinson obtained the gun, Martin said the "firearm, I can tell you, was not a government weapon. So he did not get it from his arms room."
Martin said Robinson was tipped off by the news coverage of Guillen’s remains as he read about new developments on his phone. "All of this is unfolding at the same exact time… What we didn't maybe expect was the media broadcast," Martin said. "The media broadcast was really kind of what we believe to be the tipping point for Spc. Robinson to flee," she added.
According to Martin, there is no proof Robinson sexually harassed Guillen. "In our criminal investigation, we found no evidence of sexual harassment between Vanessa and Spc. Robinson…That was ruled out very early," she said.