Investigators suspect foul play in the disappearance of a soldier who was last seen at a Texas Army base more than two months ago, a congresswoman confirmed on June 23.
Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) confirmed Tuesday that the disappearance of Vanessa Guillen, 20, is being treated as a criminal investigation.
Guillen, who was stationed at Fort Hood, disappeared on April 22 at 1 p.m. in the parking lot on the base. She was last seen wearing a black T-shirt and purple workout pants.
“We don’t want just attention. We want action. We want answers,” Garcia said Tuesday at a news conference with the soldier’s family. “We’ve got to remember that this is a family that is hurting.”
The briefing was held by Garcia, members of Guillen’s family, and their attorney, Natalie Khawam, to discuss the investigation into the 20-year-old’s disappearance.
Family members told Army leaders during the news conference that Guillen had told them that her superiors had sexually harassed her. One walked into the shower while she was naked, they said.
Khawam said the 20-year-old feared retaliation, so did not report the harassment.
“She did report that to her family and to her friends,” Khawam told reporters during the briefing that was live streamed on social media. “We suspect it’s the same person who was her supervisor that same day after she went missing.”
The attorney said Fort Hood officials have not yet disclosed the identity of the supervisor who was working that day.
“They have now used the words foul play,” Garcia said. “They are convinced now that there is foul play involved and they’re following all the leads that they can.”
As we all grieve the loss of one Soldier, someone out there can help us not to have to grieve for another. If you have information as to the whereabouts of Vanessa Guillen, call 254-495-7767#FortHood #USArmy #FindVanessa #FindVanessaGuillen pic.twitter.com/BCTIS9wpia
— Fort Hood (@forthood) June 21, 2020
The family’s attorney called on Congress to probe the handling of Guillen’s case, because Army investigators have failed to disclose any other detail apart from the time of the soldier’s last known contact—11:30 a.m., based on phone records.
“There’s something extremely troubling about this case,” Khawam told KHOU-TV on Monday.
“A military base is probably one of the most secure places you can be. You have ID check-ins. There are security cameras everywhere.”
“There’s so many gaps and holes in what we learned today that I am going to demand a congressional investigation,” Khawam told reporters Tuesday. “For this family, we want to know what happened and who is covering up to who and why are they covering up.”
Guillen, a member of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, is described as a female of Hispanic descent, 5 feet, 2 inches tall, 126 pounds, and she has black hair and brown eyes. On the day of her disappearance, investigators said her car keys, barracks room key, ID card, and wallet were found in the armory room where she’d been working earlier.
Search teams on Monday scoured the Leon River after investigators received a tip, but they didn’t discover anything.
“One of Vanessa’s dreams has always been to join the U.S. Army,” Garcia told reporters. “Now we’re dealing with a tragedy. A tragedy that involves Vanessa being missing two months now.”
“I demand justice and I demand their respect and that they respect my daughter as a soldier,” Guillen’s mother, Gloria Guillen, said in Spanish Tuesday. “She enlisted for her country and to protect us. And now that she needs us, we need to support her and find her.”
Last week, Army investigators increased the reward for information that leads to the whereabouts about the 20-year-old. The reward is now $25,000, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command said on June 15. The League of United Latin American Citizens is also contributing $25,000 to fund the reward, making the combined reward $50,000.
Anyone with information about her whereabouts should contact Army CID Special Agents at 254-495-7767 or the Military Police Desk at (254) 287-4001. Anonymous tips can be submitted using the command’s website.
Jack Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.