The family of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen is asking that the missing soldier’s case be taken out of the hands of Army CID, after nearly two months have passed with no resolution since she disappeared from Fort Hood, Texas, on April 22.
On Monday, Army CID officials said the reward being offered for information leading to the whereabouts of Guillen has been raised to $25,000. It previously stood at $15,000.
The 20-year-old soldier, a small-arms repairer with 3rd Cavalry Regiment, was last seen at roughly 12:30 p.m. that Wednesday in the parking lot of her squadron headquarters. Her car keys, barracks room key, ID card and wallet were later found in the armory room where she was working earlier in the day.
Guillen’s older sister, Mayra, is pushing for the FBI to take over the case from Army CID.
“It will be hard because of the Army’s jurisdiction but I will push for a congressional investigation as well,” Mayra told Army Times. Rep. Sylvia García, D-Texas, said through social media that her office is “working directly with the family.”
During a Wednesday press conference, Mayra told reporters that Army officials have been unresponsive to her family’s questions and concerns.
“I don’t want the case to belong to CID anymore because they can’t give us information," Mayra said Wednesday. “It happened inside a federal building, a military base, and we still don’t get answers as to who, what, where exactly and why.”
Guillen had complained to her mother that she was being sexually harassed by one of her sergeants before she disappeared, according to the missing soldier’s family.
“We are completely committed to finding Vanessa and aggressively going after every single piece of credible information and every lead in this investigation,” said Chris Grey, a spokesman for Army CID. “We will not stop until we find Vanessa.”
An updated Army CID statement provided by Grey said investigators have no credible information or report that Guillen was sexually assaulted, though the statement did not mention the allegations of sexual harassment. The statement also said investigators have no information connecting Guillen’s case to the disappearance of Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales, another Fort Hood soldier who was last seen on the night of Aug. 19, 2019, while driving his car in Killeen, Texas.
Mayra told Army Times that she was unsure whether her sister ultimately reported the sexual harassment to the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program.
“I did point out to CID what my sister told us in regards to the harassment and I just hope they held the person accountable and are looking into them especially,” said Mayra.
Army investigators have interviewed more than 150 people and are working closely with the FBI and local Texas authorities, said Grey.
“We have also partnered with Texas EquuSearch and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to tap into their resources as well," he added. “We have participated in ground and air searches on Fort Hood and throughout the Central Texas region.”
Guillen’s disappearance has attracted national attention. Actress Salma Hayek posted a message on Instagram late last week saying, “Bring back Vanessa" on one image and reiterating the sexual harassment allegations on another image.
On the day of her disappearance, Guillen texted her boyfriend to say she was going into work and that she would text back as soon as she could, “but that text never came,” according to Mayra.
There were no cameras in the squadron area that captured Guillen’s disappearance, said Mayra. Army CID also has ruled out the possibility that Guillen went AWOL, she added. Guillen’s belongings were all accounted for with the exception of her cell phone, Mayra noted.
On Wednesday, Fort Hood officials said in a press release that the search continues and involves Army CID, the FBI, the Texas Rangers and local law enforcement. The Wednesday update appeared to push back against Guillen’s family assertions.
“Over the course of this investigation, numerous special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command have frequently called and met with members of the Guillen family from the date she was first reported missing,” the release reads.
The post said that an in-person meeting was held on May 23 with Mayra, and a virtual meeting was held on June 8 with her mother, Gloria Guillen, and Congresswoman García. The virtual meeting was hosted by Col. Ralph Overland, 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander.
“The participants were given a full investigative update and were encouraged to ask questions,” the Fort Hood release reads. “Additionally, agents have had numerous weekly phone conversations with one or more family members.”
Mayra said Overland is the only 3rd Cavalry Regiment official she has spoken with, and even there, the details were scarce.
“We did speak in regards to what they’ve been doing — pretty much just the searches," said Mayra. “They don’t get into much detail, but they do promise that they’re still doing everything they can. All I can tell them is, 'Okay I’ll take your word for it, but I need proof sooner or later.”
Mayra said the family wants to see flight logs, terrain imagery or some other proof that Fort Hood is still searching for Guillen.
On Friday a crowd of protesters organized by the League of United Latin American Citizens gathered outside Fort Hood to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the investigation and search.
Officials are still encouraging those with credible information to contact Army CID through their web-based crime tip submission site. Agents have previously stated that people providing information can remain anonymous.
“We encourage anyone who may have information, no matter how minor, that could help in the safe return of Pfc. Guillen to please call CID agents at 254-495-7767 and share that information with them," Fort Hood spokesman Tom Rheinlander said last week.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.