The family of lost Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillén said Wednesday that her remains were likely discovered in a shallow grave near the Army installation in Texas, perhaps bringing a months-long search for her to a tragic end.
Guillén, 20, was seen on the morning of April 22 from the parking lot outside her regiment headquarters on the sprawling base outside Killeen.
Her disappearance, punctuated by allegations that she was sexually harassed by a superior, sparked sadness and rage in her family along with the Latino community, who said the Army’s investigative efforts after her disappearance moved too slowly.
“We dropped a gorgeous young soldier,” family attorney Natalie Khawam said in a news conference with Guillén’s household outside the Navy Memorial in Washington.
Killeen police encountered a suspect tied to Guillén’s disappearance early Wednesday. The soldier”reportedly displayed a weapon and took his own lifetime,” Army researchers said.
Guillén’s sisters Lupe and Myra blasted Army leaders over Guillén’s death and the subsequent investigation. As she demanded inquiries sweat poured from Lupe Guillén’s face from behind a mask. She pulled on off the mask, and her voice echoed across the masonry floor.
“They did not keep my sister safe,” she explained. “How does this happen at a military base?”
Myra Guillén recognized a close experience with the suspect in a visit to Fort Hood.
“I met him not knowing he had something to do with it,” she said.
The household was flanked by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. The household and gabbard called for laws and a response that better protects service members facing attack and harassment.
Gabbard, an officer at the Army National Guard, said she knows the value of chain of command in resolving problems. “I also know the fear Vanessa must have felt” in seeking help, Gabbard said.
Army researchers found partial human remains close to the Leon River, east of Fort Hood, said Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, the service’s equivalent of the FBI. The command has not confirmed the remains found were Guillén’s, he explained in a statement.
But evidence, including witness reports and substance recovered in the scene, made searchers”99.9 percent convinced” that the remains were those of Guillén, said Tim Miller, founder and director of Texas EquuSearch, a nonprofit that assists in missing-person searches.
The remains have been found a few feet from a pile of a burn mound which was searched June ), Miller told The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Texas Rangers, detectives and cadaver dogs had not discovered that the body before a return to the scene,” he explained.
“We had been standing together with her small body,” Miller stated. Concrete was poured over the remains, and the tomb to settle into natural-looking terrain was allowed by rainstorms. Miller’s organization has recovered nearly 240 sets of human remains in just two decades, he explained, but the level of sophistication in the website was unprecedented.
“I never have seen anything like it,” he explained.
Witness accounts helped result in a breakthrough,” he said. A man was seen fighting following Guillén’s disappearance with a heavy-duty Pelican transport case at a car a while, Miller said. A toast of a case that was similar was scorched but regained in the site, ” he explained.
On Tuesday, men building a fence close to the website noticed a foul smell and walked over to investigate. They saw hair protruding from the ground, Miller said. He theorized some partial remains might have been dug up by animals.
The search was called off after the discovery, he explained.
Guillén had complained to family and friends about being sexually harassed by a sergeant, in accordance with her family and Khawam, however there is no record of any formal complaint. The Army said last week that the allegations didn’t create possible leads.
Her family reported her missing hours after last communicating with her, and friends could not find her on the base. The family pressed the Army and federal lawmakers to look closely at the scenario, enlisting the assistance of Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Tex., along with also a Latino civil rights organization. Other actors and salma Hayek amplified the narrative.
“Should they find my daughter dead, I’ll shut down this foundation,” her mom, Gloria Guillén, said during a news conference at Fort Hood a week.
Investigators discovered her car keys, barracks room crucial, Army identification card and wallet at the armory where she had worked the day before she disappeared. Several agencies, including over 500 soldiers, used drones, helicopters and dogs to reunite in and around Fort Hood, one of the biggest military bases in the country.
Army investigators confirmed Wednesday that another suspect was detained in the Guillén investigation — that the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier. She’s being held in the Bell County Jail.
The Army didn’t release the names of either suspect.
Miller, that began EquuSearch years following his wife was abducted and murdered, said his worst fears never materialized. Searchers worried that Guillén could have been set adrift in the Leon River, where the waters would have carried her away.
“I feel this is the very best outcome there could have been,” he explained. “I was worried Vanessa was going to be among them that was not found.”
This story was originally printed at washingtonpost.com. Read it .