The 3rd Cavalry Regiment on Fort Hood, Texas, is conducting its own investigation into allegations that Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, 20, faced sexual harassment from a sergeant prior to her April 22 disappearance, according to a Texas congresswoman lobbying for answers.
Rep. Sylvia García said during a press conference Tuesday with Guillen’s family that she has been in touch with Col. Ralph Overland, 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander.
Guillen’s family has said that the missing soldier complained to her mother about an Army sergeant who was sexually harassing her and following her on runs prior to her disappearance.
“I was pleased this morning, on a call with the colonel, he mentioned that he had formed his own internal investigative group to look at every allegation related to sexual assault or sexual harassment in this case,” García said Tuesday afternoon. “So I’m hopeful that that, too, will shed light on this.”
Officials from 3rd Cavalry Regiment confirmed Thursday that Overland appointed a team led by a senior investigating officer to conduct an AR 15-6 Investigation into allegations by Guillen’s family that the soldier was sexually harassed.
Guillen’s older sister, Mayra, told Army Times on Monday she was unsure whether her sister ultimately reported the sexual harassment to the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program. A website for Guillen states she told her mother she was worried her allegations would get her in trouble or be brushed aside.
“We know that the armed services do not always have the best record when it comes to cases of sexual assault,” García said. “So we cannot let these allegations go without full investigation.”
García also asked the regiment commander for “a concrete deadline about what they have been doing to find Vanessa and ensure there is more transparency in this case.”
“We are still waiting on information from the base, and I would certainly like the FBI to have a more robust investigation in conjunction with [Army CID],” García added.
Mayra, Guillen’s sister, wants the FBI to take over the case from Army CID, because of what she termed the lack of information being provided.
Guillen’s family has raised questions about how much of a search effort is actually underway, as well as about the absence of video surveillance records. The family was told there is no camera in the armory where Guillen worked prior to her disappearance before 1 p.m. April 22.
“It happened inside a federal building, a military base, and we still don’t get answers as to who, what, where exactly and why,” Mayra said last week.
Guillen’s case is also being brought by García to the House Armed Services Committee, the congresswoman said. García called for transparency into the investigation but also said that if the Army needs more funding to investigate cases like this, she is looking to help provide it.
Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, also announced Tuesday that his organization is offering $25,000 to match the reward of the same amount offered up by Army CID for credible leads in the investigation.
“I just want to know what happened to my little girl, what happened on that base,” said Vanessa Guillen’s mother through a translator.
Guillen’s cell phone is still missing and her car is still parked on Fort Hood, according to an attorney for the family, Natalie Khawam. Guillen’s car keys, barracks room key, ID card and wallet were later found in the armory room where she was working earlier in the day.
“The phone has not been found,” Khawam said. “We are going to subpoena the phone company for where it pinged to last. We’re also going to subpoena the text messages.”
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.