LULAC SAYS SENTENCING IN VANESSA GUILLEN MURDER IS AN IMPORTANT STEP TOWARD JUSTICE
Nation's Oldest and Largest Latino Civil Rights Organization Says Fate of Cecily Aguilar Helps Community Heal and May Protect Other Servicemembers
August 14, 2023
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Washington, DC - The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said the 30-year sentencing of Cecily Aguilar in connection with the brutal killing of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen in 2022 finally brings closure to one crucial phase of justice. "Nothing will ever replace the pain and loss the Guillen family has suffered by Vanessa's tragic murder," says Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President. "What this sentence represents is a victory of our community standing together and seeing this process through to its end. Because of the fight we undertook after Vanessa's death, LULAC can say we have the Vanessa Guillen Act that will protect generations of other servicemembers from falling victim to military sexual assault or worse. It is a bittersweet moment, and we will not stop any time that crimes are committed against our Latino men and women in military uniform," added Garcia.
In November, Aguilar pleaded guilty to one count of being an accessory after the fact and three counts of making false statements. She faced a maximum sentence of 30 years and a $1 million fine. Aguilar is the only person charged in Vanessa's murder. She previously admitted to helping her boyfriend, Aaron Robinson, dismember Vanessa's body before burying her remains in shallow graves along the Leon River. Guillen's suspected killer, Robinson, killed himself before her body was found. Court documents say that Robinson told Aguilar he repeatedly "bludgeoned" Vanessa in the head with a hammer at Fort Hood and that she died from the wounds. The documents say he hid her body in a large box, which he and Aguilar later tried to dismember and burn.
"There are no winners in this story," says Analuisa Tapia, the LULAC leader who organized community protest vigils outside Ft. Cavazos every Friday for weeks while the Army was silent on Vanessa's disappearance in April 2022. Her remains were found on June 30, two months later. "What we have been seeking isn't vengeance but justice so that this never happens again, like what Vanessa went through. She was a victim multiple times because the Army did not protect her or listen to her family's pleas for help when Vanessa went missing. She even said she was missing without authorization or AWOL. Perhaps now, we can begin to let Vanessa rest in peace and power that her death has brought us to a better place for others," says Tapia.
The Vanessa Guillen Act is the law that bypasses commanders by requiring them to request independent investigations within 72 hours of receiving the complaint and to forward the complaint to the next superior office in the chain of command. This act goes beyond addressing the primary offense and delves into the secondary injury of retaliation against the person lodging the initial complaint of a sex-related crime. Retaliation has manifested in various forms, including social ostracization, name-calling, shunning, and professional repercussions such as work-related punishments or unfair performance evaluations.
Domingo Garcia affirms, "The Vanessa Guillen Act is a testament to the power of collective action and our community's commitment to ensuring that our servicemembers are safe, respected, and protected. This act is a critical step towards dismantling the culture of silence that has allowed sexual harassment and assault to persist within the military ranks." LULAC acknowledges the progress made with Cecily Aguilar's sentencing, recognizing it as an essential milestone toward justice for Vanessa Guillen and her family. The organization reiterates its dedication to pursuing justice for victims of sexual assault and harassment within the military, advocating for accountability, prevention, and cultural change.