FORT HOOD (CBSDFW.COM/CBS NEWS) – The family of a soldier who vanished from Fort Hood more than two months ago is demanding answers.
Pfc. Vanessa Guillen was last seen on April 22. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is looking into her disappearance and Army investigators say they suspect foul play.
In recent weeks protesters have gathered at Fort Hood, and in Guillen’s hometown of Houston, to rally behind her family who feels Fort Hood officials aren’t doing enough to find the 20-year-old.
The soldier’s family says they don’t trust Army investigators and are heading to Washington, D.C. to ask congressional lawmakers to step in and put the FBI or another federal agency in charge.
Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam said, “They’re not here to help us find Vanessa. They’re here to hoard that information because they don’t want us knowing what happened.”
Many of those who know and love Guillen believe someone she knew is responsible for her disappearance. When asked if Guillen was having problems with anyone in her unit Khawam said, “We understand that she was sexually harassed by a couple of her superiors — on two different occasions — that she reported to her family and her friends and her colleagues at work.”
Khawam is demanding that the Army release more information about the search for Guillen. “They’re covering up for each other,” she said.
At a previous press conference the soldier’s sister, Lupe Guillen, said, “She was being sexually harassed on base, which is unacceptable because she was supposed to be safe while working and protecting the country we live in.”
Guillen, who was assigned to 3rd Cavalry Regiment, was last seen in the parking lot of her barracks at Fort Hood. She was wearing a black t-shirt and purple workout pants. Her car and room keys, identification and wallet were found in an armory room where she was working earlier in the day, but her cell phone is missing.
Fort Hood has launched an investigation into the allegations, so far Army investigators say they have no credible reports that Guillen was sexually assaulted.
Investigators say they are doing everything in their power to find her. In a video statement Colonel Ralph Overland said, “We won’t stop this effort until we’re successful and with your help we can be successful sooner.”
After feeling they weren’t being heard or getting information, Guillen’s family reached out to Domingo Garcia, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
“Their own people are investigating their own people basically, and that creates an inherent conflict of interest,” Garcia said. “The Army cannot give any answers to the family 30 days after her disappearance and we decided we need to start putting pressure to find out what happened to Vanessa.”
Gloria Guillen, Vanessa’s mother, said her daughter had wanted to join the Army since she was 10-years-old. During a press conference outside the gates of Fort Hood she said, “If she comes up dead… close this base.”
Pfc. Guillen is the second soldier to go missing at Fort Hood in recent months. Gregory Wedel-Morales disappeared last August 2019, his remains were found earlier this month. The Army is still investigating, but foul play is suspected.
“There’s eyes and ears everywhere on a base, so whatever is going in that base needs to be investigated,” Khawam said. “We need to find out because nobody is safe on that base. Nobody is safe right now in the military.”
Texas EquuSearch, members of the military and volunteers have been searching for Guillen for weeks. This past weekend a group found what are being called ‘unidentified remains’ in Coryell County. The discovery was reportedly made in a field not far from where the remains of Wedel-Morales were found.
The remains have been brought to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas to be analyzed.
Pfc. Vanessa Guillen stands 5 feet 2 inches, weighs approximately 126 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. According to her family, she has tattoos of a cross with a flower on her left arm, a flower also on her left arm and a mountain with a circle on her upper left shoulder.
Officials are urging anyone with information regarding Guillen’s whereabouts to call Army CID Special Agents at 254-495-7767, the Military Police Desk at 254-287-4001 or leave tips or information on the Army Criminal Investigation Command website.
Last fiscal year there was a 3% rise in the number of sexual assault cases reported throughout the entire military.