A Texas woman who helped mutilate and conceal the body of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillén pleaded guilty to federal charges Tuesday, prosecutors said.
Cecily Aguilar, 24, helped the man who killed Guillén dispose of her body and lied to investigators, the U.S. attorney’s office for Western Texas said in a statement.
Guillén, 20, an Army specialist, was last seen alive at Fort Hood, Texas, on April 22, 2020, and her dismembered remains were found around two months later.
The soldier who was suspected of killing Guillén, Spc. Aaron Robinson, fatally shot himself as police moved to arrest him. Authorities have said Aguilar was Robinson’s girlfriend.
Aguilar pleaded guilty Tuesday to a count of accessory to murder after the fact and three counts of false statement or representation, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
If she is convicted, Aguilar faces up to 30 years in prison, but a judge will consider federal sentencing guidelines, the U.S. attorney’s office said. A sentencing date has not been set.
Prosecutors said that in addition to helping Robinson destroy and hide the remains, she lied to investigators.
Guillén’s family said they were taken aback by Aguilar’s decision to plead guilty. Aguilar was first arrested on a federal charge in July 2020.
“So many motions that she’s filed in the past, for her to come and plead guilty now, it takes us completely by surprise,” Mayra Guillén, Guillén’s older sister, told reporters outside court.
Attorneys listed as representing Aguilar did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday night.
Guillén’s killing, and revelations that she had been sexually harassed by a supervisor but that unit leadership took no action, inspired legal reforms to help and protect victims of sexual assault in the military.
Key parts of the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act introduced a number of reforms, including making sexual harassment a standalone offense in the military code and moving prosecution decisions to an office of the chief prosecutor.
They were passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law in December.