AUSTIN, Texas — An Army commander confirmed Monday that dismembered remains found last week buried near Fort Hood belonged to a 20-year-old soldier who vanished more than two months ago from the Texas base.
Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, Fort Hood’s senior commander, said during a news conference that the armed forces forensic examiner determined through DNA analysis that the remains belonged to Spc. Vanessa Guillén. A day earlier, an attorney for Guillén’s family had said Army officials told the family at their Houston home that the remains were hers.
“We’re now confronted with the aftermath of one of the most heinous acts I can imagine,” Efflandt said.
Guillén, who had been missing since April, was killed and dismembered by U.S. Army Specialist Aaron Robinson, a 20-year-old soldier from Calumet City, Illinois, took his own life last week, federal and military investigators have said.
Cecily Aguilar, a 22-year-old civilian from Killeen, has been arrested and charged with one count of conspiring to tamper with evidence for allegedly helping hide Guillén’s body.
Aguilar made her initial appearance Monday in federal court in Waco, saying that she understood the charge as read. If convicted, Aguilar faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Her next court date is scheduled for July 14.
The human remains were found near the Leon River in Bell County, about 20 miles (32 kilometres) east of Fort Hood.
Natalie Khawam, the attorney representing the Guillén family, said Army officials told the family it took longer to identify the remains because Guillén was bludgeoned so terribly that they were unable to use dental records.
“Her mom is distraught that they can’t even bury her body because there are only fragments,” Khawam said.
Guillén’s family has said that they believe she was sexually harassed by Robinson and is calling for a congressional investigation. Army investigators said last week that they had no credible evidence that Guillén had been sexually harassed or assaulted.
Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, including Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, of New York, said Monday that they had requested a briefing on the Army’s response and investigation into Guillén’s disappearance.
“The emerging details about the disappearance and murder of Specialist Vanessa Guillen are truly horrific, and our hearts go out to her family. We are also deeply disturbed by reports that Specialist Guillen was sexually harassed prior to her disappearance, but according to her family, was too fearful of the professional consequences to report her concerns,” the Democrats said in a joint news release.
At the Monday news conference, Efflandt said they will complete their ongoing sexual harassment investigation and will take action on any findings.
“Every person who raises their right hand to serve their family and their country in uniform deserves to be safe and treated with dignity and respect,” Efflandt said. “To the victims of sexual harassment and assault we hear you, we believe you and encourage you to come forward.”
Col. Ralph Overland, commander of Guillén’s regiment, said at the news conference that Guillén’s death “has devastated us all and left a hole in our formation.”
“She was strong, courageous and caring,” he said, adding that she “always went above and beyond to accomplish the mission.”
AP writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.
Acacia Coronado is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Acacia Coronado, The Associated Press
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HONOLULU — An auction of a 94-year-old Native Hawaiian heiress’ belongings can’t go forward until a conservator is named to handle her finances, a judge ruled Monday.
Abigail Kawananakoa’s foundation, which has been working to ensure her fortune goes to benefiting Native Hawaiian causes, asked a judge to stop the auction until at least a conservator is named. The auction was scheduled to close next week, while a hearing on her conservator isn’t scheduled until July 21. On Monday, the the auction website said it is now scheduled to end on Aug. 2.
Kawananakoa’s wife and others can’t proceed with the auction or sell any of her belongings until there’s a ruling on the foundation’s petition and a permanent conservator is named, Judge R. Mark Browning ruled.
Her $215-million fortune has been tied up in a legal battle since 2017, when her longtime lawyer, Jim Wright, argued a stroke left her impaired. Kawananakoa said she’s fine and fired Wright. She then married her partner of 20 years, Veronica Gail Worth, who later took her last name.
A judge ruled in March that she needs a conservator because she’s unable to manage her property and business affairs. Another judge ruled month last month her conservatorship should be unlimited and set a hearing for July 21 to determine who that will be.
Some consider Kawananakoa a princess because she’s related to the family that ruled the islands before the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893.
She inherited her wealth as the great-granddaughter of James Campbell, an Irish businessman who made his fortune as a sugar plantation owner and one of Hawaii’s largest landowners.
Attorneys for the Kawananakoas and for the foundation didn’t immediately comment on Monday’s ruling.
Foundation directors said in their petition they are concerned that some of the auction items appear culturally significant.
Kawananakoa’s attorney, Bruce Voss, said last week that the auction items are from a cottage she no longer visits and that she needs the proceeds from the sale to pay for personal expenses.
Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, The Associated Press
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GUATEMALA CITY — Two sons of former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli were arrested Monday in Guatemala as they tried to board a private plane out of the country.
Luis Enrique and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli were supposedly headed to Panama with stops scheduled in El Salvador and Nicaragua, said Guatemala Interior Ministry spokesman Vinicio Pacheco. He said there was an international order from Interpol for their arrests on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Both are sought by the Panamanian government for allegedly receiving more than $20 million in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. The government originally sought their arrest in 2017.
In recent days, word circulated they were planning to return due to fears of the coronavirus. They have denied any illegal activity.
“We trust that the legal situation of the Martinelli brothers in the Guatemalan republic will be resolved as soon as possible so that they may coninue the process of their return to Panama to attend to the processes for which they have been cited,” the Martinelli family said in a statement Monday.
The brothers had been detained in Florida in 2018 for immigration reasons, but were released on $1 million bond for each.
Ricardo Martinelli, who governed from 2009 to 2014, was detained in the U.S. and Panama for more than two years on allegations of political espionage and misuse of public funds. A court found himnot guilty in 2019 and he was released.
Associated Press, The Associated Press
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