A civilian suspect accused of helping dispose of a body near a Texas military base in 2020 pleaded guilty Tuesday.
Cecily Aguilar, 24, a woman who worked near Foot Hood, pleaded guilty at a federal court in Waco to one count of accessory to murder after the fact and three counts of making a false statement, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Aguilar faces 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén was allegedly murdered by Aguilar’s boyfriend, Army Spc. Aaron Robinson. Prosecutors allege that Aguilar helped Robinson dispose of Guillén’s body in nearby woods after he bludgeoned her to death with a hammer in the base’s armory. Guillén’s family believes that she was sexually assaulted by Robinson.
Two weeks after the remains were found, Aguilar initially pleaded not guilty to three conspiracy charges. Authorities claimed that Aguilar had confessed to her role, but her attorneys filed a motion to have the confession thrown out, claiming that investigators failed to read Aguilar her Miranda rights. The motion by the defense was dismissed by the judge.
“Cecily Aguilar’s guilty plea today was another step on the long path toward justice for Vanessa, my client, and her courageous family,” Natalie Khawam, attorney for the Guillén family, said in a statement.
Former and active service members, spurred on by the death of Guillén, launched a social media campaign about alleged harassment experienced by Fort Hood service members.
Guillén’s death prompted lawmakers to change the way sexual assault prosecutions are handled by the military. Under the deal reached last December, the House and Senate reached an agreement that would strip military commanders of most of their authority to prosecute sexual assaults and myriad other criminal cases.
Under the agreement, military commanders would be replaced by independent prosecutors, who would be responsible for determining whether those accused of sexual assault, rape, murder, domestic violence, and an array of other offenses should be prosecuted. In a concession to the opponents of the changes, however, sexual harassment would be criminalized but not fall under the special prosecutor structure.
At the time that the agreement was reached in December 2021, lawmakers said that it would take at least two years before a bill could be presented on the matter.
In January 2022, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to “establish sexual harassment as an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”