KILLEEN, Texas — In the past 24 hours, a lot of information surrounding missing Fort Hood Soldier Vanessa Guillen's disappearance has been released. Her family believes investigators found the 20-year-old soldier's remains in Little River Academy Tuesday afternoon, which is more than two months after she was declared missing from the Killeen base.
In a shocking turn, an active duty soldier shot and killed himself near the base early Wednesday morning, as Killeen police officers and members of the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) moved in to arrest him in connection to this case.
Guillen's family said the Army is covering up the investigation, and hasn't been telling the truth about what happened to her.
"My sister's no joke. My sister's a human being," said Lupe Guillen, who is Vanessa's sister. "I want justice and I want answers."
Guillen's family was on the road to Washington D.C. Tuesday when they learned remains found near the Leon River Bridge in Little River Academy may be those of their beloved soldier.
"How can this happen on a military base?" Lupe asked, during the press conference held Wednesday in Washington. "How could this happen while she was on duty? They [Army] think sexual harassment, sexual assault is a joke."
Early Wednesday afternoon, authorities confirmed additional remains were found in the same location near the Leon River Bridge, scattered where the first remains were found. Authorities confirmed cadaver dogs had been sent into the area.
Guillen has been missing since April 22 from the Fort Hood Army base in Killeen. While the remains found Tuesday have not been positively identified, Tim Miller with Texas Equusearch, said the search for Guillen is over pending the positive identification.
"My sister did not do this to herself. Someone did it," Lupe said. "If this can happen to my sister, what makes you think it can't happen to other servicewomen and men?"
Guillen's family and their attorney, Natalie Khawam, are in Washington, demanding a Congressional investigation be done. They said the Army and Fort Hood investigators have been covering up Guillen's case from the beginning and protecting other soldiers.
"We need to know. We need answers. We deserve answers," Khawam said Wednesday. "Again, our taxpayer money is taking care of that base, supporting that base. We deserve transparency and answers."
"We are very concerned for the welfare of PFC Vanessa Guillen and we fully understand the frustration felt by the family, friends and fellow soldiers of Vanessa," Army officials said in a statement. "We are doing everything in our power to get her back and will not stop until we do."
In a shocking twist to the case, the Army CID confirmed Wednesday a junior soldier, who was wanted in connection to Guillen's disappearance, shot and killed himself as authorities moved in to arrest him near the base.
"The person of interest was an active duty soldier and his name is being withheld pending notification to next of kin," said Chief Charles Kimble of the Killeen Police Department. "Through the Army Casualty Assistance office."
Investigators said a second person, identified only as a civilian and estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier, is also in custody. While Guillen's family and attorney said there is a third person in custody, authorities have not confirmed that or released any information on that person.
Khawam said the male suspect who killed himself is the one who allegedly watched Guillen as she showered on base. Her family said she had told them she was being sexually harassed on base and even told her friends and fellow soldiers.
"Many people recommended, 'why don't you report it to your command?'," said Khawam in regards to Guillen's complaints. "She was afraid to because the harassment was coming from her superiors. Her concern was the retaliation. She just wanted to have a career in the military."
Army CID investigators have said there is no record or evidence that Guillen was harassed by anyone on base. That's one of the reasons Guillen's family is in Washington.
"My sister deserves justice. That's why we demand a criminal investigation to be done," Lupe said.
"They should be ashamed of themselves," Khawam said. "Protocol was breached in every manner. We lost one of our own on our own base. Unacceptable. Should never happen. Ever."
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was on the Senate floor today and said changes need to be made in how sexual assault is handled in the military. She said according to the Pentagon, almost 21,000 service members were sexually assaulted in 2018.
"In many of those cases, the assailant is someone in the survivors chain of command," Sen. Gillibrand said. "The same chain of command who will decide the case. There is no other judicial system in America that would ever allow this to happen."
It's something Guillen's family said needs to end and they are putting those responsible for their loved one's death on high alert.
"Vanessa Guillen did not deserve this," Lupe said. "If those criminals are still out there, take my word. We will not stop and we will not rest until they are behind bars."
The family and Khawam is calling on Congress for legislation to establish an independent third party to investigate the claims of sexual harassment and assault in the military.
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