FORT HOOD, Texas — Fort Hood Senior Commander, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, confirmed Monday that the remains found near the Leon River on June 30 were those of Vanessa Guillen.
Efflandt spoke from in front of Fort Hood saying the news was exactly what he feared.
3rd Cavalry Regiment Commander Col. Ralph Overland also spoke at the press conference. Overland was put in charge of investigating a claim that Guillen was sexually harassed. During a press conference on Thursday, officials said they had not found any evidence of sexual harassment. The investigation was not mentioned in the press conference.
Both men offered condolences to the family but did not take any questions.
"We all feel her loss. The loss of a vibrant young woman who bravely volunteered to serve her country. The loss of a talented soldier. The loss of a loving family member and the loss of a friend with a bright future ahead of her," Maj. Gen. Efflandt said.
Overland also shared a message of grief.
"Our loss of Vanessa Guillen has devastated us all and left a hole in our formation," Col. Overland said.
Maj. Gen. Efflandt made several promises during Monday's press conference.
First, they will honor Vanessa and she will not be forgotten.
He said they will be assisting the U.S. District Attorney Western Division as they take the lead in investigating and prosecuting those associated with Guillen's murder.
He also promised Fort Hood would complete the ongoing investigation into sexual harassment claims made by Guillen's family and take action on those findings.
Using DNA samples, the remains were identified by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, according to a press release from Fort Hood.
“I know I can speak for everyone involved in this tragic situation that we are truly heartbroken for the family, friends and fellow Soldiers of Spc. Guillen,” said Brigadier General Duane Miller, the acting commanding general of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.
Pfc. Aaron Robinson was named as the suspect in Guillen's disappearance and death. Robinson shot and killed himself in Killeen in the early morning hours of July 1.
Robinson's girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, was named as a second suspect in the case and charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence. Aguilar faced a judge in federal court in Waco Monday morning.
Guillen disappeared April 22 from Fort Hood. Her remains were discovered June 30 near the Leon River in Bell County.
According to a criminal complaint, Robinson killed Guillen in the armory room on Fort Hood then took her body to the area where the remains were found. Robinson took Aguilar with him on the evening of April 22 or early morning hours of April 23 and the two dismembered her body and buried the remains in three holes, according to the complaint.
The complaint also alleges Robinson and Aguilar returned to the scene on April 26 with hairnets and gloves. It says Aguilar also brought a bag of what she referred to as concrete she bought from someone through Facebook.
The two uncovered the remains and "continued the process of breaking down the remains of the dead female," the complaint says. The remains were then burned again along with the gloves and hairnet. The complaint says the two then put the remains back in the three holes they dug earlier to conceal them.
Robinson and Aguilar then burned the clothes they were wearing that night at their residence, according to the complaint.
The complaint goes onto say Robinson had been confined to his barracks on Fort Hood before June 30 but left post that night. Authorities asked Aguilar to call Robinson at which point he never denied anything they did to Vanessa Guillen and her body, according to the complaint.
During a later phone call, Robinson said, "Baby, they found pieces. They found pieces."
The Guillen family attorney, Natalie Kahwam, identified the remains as Guillen Sunday.
Kahwam and Guillen's family have called for congressional hearings into how Fort Hood handled her disappearance. They also asked for a bill to be passed in her name to protect victims of sexual harassment and assault in the military.
Rep. John Carter released a statement shortly after the news that her remains had been identified.
“This is a devastating outcome to a deeply disturbing tragedy," said Carter. "No parent should ever have to go through the pain of losing their child. My heart goes out to Vanessa’s loved ones that I know have been dealing with an incredible amount of grief for the last two months."
Carter also addressed the sexual harassment allegations.
"I want to reaffirm that there is no place for sexual abuse of any kind in our nation’s military or in our society," said Carter. "The military’s system must empower victims to speak up and severely punish those who violate the rights of their fellow servicemembers."
Rep. Roger Williams also released a statement Monday.
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Private First Class Vanessa Guillen, a true American soldier who dedicated her life in service to our nation," said Williams. "My prayers are with her family and the Fort Hood community during this trying time. The search for answers into her tragic death must continue, and I call upon the Department of Defense and law enforcement to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation that leads to those responsible being fully brought to justice.”
In response to the handling of the case by Fort Hood, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia announced Monday she is leading 87 members of congress in support of Rep. Speier and Sen. Gillibrand's request that the Department of Defense independently investigate how Fort Hood handled Guillen's case. Carter's and Williams' names are not on the letter.
“There are still many questions left unanswered surrounding her disappearance and about how Fort Hood conducted its investigations. Congress must act to guarantee this never happens again to another soldier. This is why my colleagues and I strongly support Rep. Speier and Sen. Gillibrand’s request for the DoD Inspector General to conduct a full, independent investigation into Fort Hood’s handling of SPC Vanessa Guillen’s case,” Garcia said in a statement.
Here is the letter sent by Garcia and other members of congress to Department of Defense Inspector General Sean O’Donnell: