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Army:Independent Probe in Soldier Death07/11 10:30


   AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- U.S. Army officials announced Friday they will begin 
an independent review of the command climate at Fort Hood following calls from 
members of Congress and community activists for a more thorough investigation 
into the killing of a soldier from the Texas base.

   Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy said he was directing the review and 
that it will be conducted by an independent panel of congressional 
representatives selected in collaboration with League of United Latin American 
Citizens. The panel will examine claims and historical data of discrimination, 
harassment and assault.

   The review comes in the wake of the death of 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa 
Guillen, who investigators say was bludgeoned to death at Fort Hood by a fellow 
soldier. She was last seen in April and was listed as missing for six weeks 
before the Army released details. The soldier suspected in Guillen's slaying, 
Spc. Aaron Robinson, died by suicide on July 1 as police were trying to take 
him into custody.

   "The Army is deeply saddened and troubled by the loss of one of our own," 
McCarthy said Friday during a press conference.

   In a separate press conference Friday, U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, 
said McCarthy had also agreed to back calls for the Department of Defense to 
conduct an inspector general's investigation into the death of Guillen. She 
said the independent review of Fort Hood's climate showed military officials 
were listening.

   The Texas congresswoman and others met with McCarthy after dozens of 
lawmakers joined a letter demanding a full accounting of the circumstances 
surrounding Guillen's death.

   "This is the military 'me too' movement," Garcia said.

   President Donald Trump acknowledged Guillen's death in an interview with 
Noticias Telemundo on Friday. He said he had heard of the sexual harassment and 
assault allegations in the Army and was expecting a report by Monday, when he 
said he would say more.

   "I thought it was absolutely horrible," Trump said.

   Natalie Khawam, who is representing the Guillen family, said Friday that she 
hopes to find support in members of Congress and President Trump for the I Am 
Vanessa Guillen bill that she will be presenting this month. If passed, the 
bill would allow for active duty service members to file sexual assault and 
harassment claims to a third party agency, instead of their line of command.

   "Vanessa Guillen dedicated her life to serving our country," Khawam said. 
"America looks forward to Congress passing our bill and the President singing 
it into law so this injustice never happens to another soldier ever again."

   Questions over Guillen's disappearance still loom.

   Guillen's family has said Robinson, the soldier accused of killing her, 
sexually harassed Guillen at Fort Hood, but they have not given specifics of 
what they were told.

   Guillen was assigned to work in an armory room at Fort Hood on April 22, 
when she was last seen walking to a parking lot, according to the Army. On 
April 23, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division learned of her 
disappearance and began investigating.

   Investigators began interviewing people who had been in contact with Guillen 
on April 28, according to a timeline provided by the Army. That day, Robinson, 
of Calumet City, Illinois, was identified as a "person of concern" based on 
information that he provided investigators during his interview, Army officials 

   The Army was receiving 20 to 30 tips per day about Guillen's whereabouts, 
officials said, and it took more than a month to get cell phone records 
requested for the investigation.

   Phone records helped lead investigators to Cecily Aguilar, a civilian now 
charged with one federal count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence. 
Investigators believe she helped Robinson hide Guillen's body. Aguilar, 22, of 
Killeen, Texas, near Fort Hood, is currently in custody at the Bell County Jail.

   The Army said a contractor not involved with the investigation found human 
remains June 30 in the woods near the Leon River. The remains were later 
identified as Guillen's.

   Later that day, Robinson, who had been confined at Fort Hood for reasons 
that were not related to the Guillen investigation, ran away unnoticed from the 
barracks, according to the Army. After being confronted by police later that 
night, Robinson died July 1 by taking his own life.

   The Army says the gun Robinson used was not issued by Fort Hood, but it's 
unclear where he got it.

   Army officials said 52 agents from multiple military and civilian law 
enforcement agencies have conducted more than 300 interviews investigating 
Guillen's killing. That has lasted for more than 170 days, and Army officials 
say that has led to forensic examinations of more than 50 phones.

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