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Fort Hood focus of House hearing in D.C. on sex assaults, abuse

A mural for Vanessa Guillen was painted outside of a convenience store at East William Cannon Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road in the Dove Springs neighborhood in Southeast Austin. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN/TNS]

Amid the national outcry over U.S. Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen’s death, congressional lawmakers on Wednesday plan to hear from military officials who examined how Fort Hood handles sexual misconduct.

Guillen’s family members say she told them she was sexually harassed on post before she was killed by a fellow soldier in April. However, Army officials maintain that no substantial evidence indicates Guillen, 20, was sexually harassed on post.

Her allegations and the family’s complaints about the Army’s response sparked the viral hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen, through which hundreds of service members shared their own stories of sexual abuse in the military.

A U.S. House hearing set for 9 a.m. on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., will review the findings of an Army inspector general who assessed Fort Hood’s sexual abuse and harassment response program.

U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, has worked closely with the Guillen family since mid-May to push Army officials to expand its investigation into the soldier’s disappearance before her remains were found two months later.

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Garcia in a written statement last week said Wednesday’s hearing would be the first step Congress would take to determine whether Guillen’s case was handled correctly by the Army.

“Together, with many of our colleagues in the House of Representatives, we are ready to tackle head-on sexual assault and harassment in the military,” Garcia said. “We will not stop until we get to the bottom of the truth in Vanessa’s case.”

Investigators found Guillen’s remains near the Leon River in Bell County at the end of June and identified two suspects in early July.

Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who was stationed at Fort Hood with Guillen, died after shooting himself when local authorities confronted him off post, Killeen police have said.

Investigators believe Robinson killed Guillen with a hammer in an armory room at Fort Hood on April 22. Authorities also have accused his girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, of helping Robinson dispose of Guillen’s remains. Aguilar remained held without bail in the Bell County Jail on Wednesday.

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© 2020 Austin American-Statesman