HOUSTON — The woman charged in connection with the death of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom Tuesday.
Guillen, who was from Houston, was killed, dismembered and burned by a fellow soldier in 2020. Cecily Aguilar was charged with helping her boyfriend, Fort Hood Army Spc. Aaron Robinson, cover up the disturbing crime.
Guillen's parents and sister Mayra were in the courtroom when Aguilar faced the judge.
"I only ask God that justice be truly done because she is not the only one responsible, I know there are more, and I hope to God that the truth comes to light," Guillen's mother Gloria said.
"We actually thought she was going to keep fighting back... There's still a lot of mixed emotions -- both anger and frustration -- now we are going to have to wait for the actual sentencing," Mayra said.
Aguilar will be sentenced at a later date.
In a statement, family attorney Natalie Khawam said Aguilar's guilty plea was "another step on the long path toward justice for Vanessa, my client and her courageous family."
"I will never stop fighting for my clients and will continue to seek and demand justice for victims and their families until it’s achieved," Khawam said.
Vanessa Guillen's death
Guillen was killed at Fort Hood on April 22, 2020, by Fort Hood Army Spc. Aaron Robinson, according to an FBI criminal complaint.
Court documents said Aguilar helped Robinson dismember and bury Guillan's remains near the Leon River in Bell County.
The remains were found on June 30, 2020, after a massive two-month search.
Robinson shot and killed himself the following day so Aguilar was the only one charged in the case.
Guillen case leads to new laws, $35M lawsuit
An investigation by military officials found that Guillen was sexually harassed and that leaders failed to take appropriate action.
The lawsuit describes two instances in which Guillen was harassed during her time as a soldier and Guillen's suicidal thoughts as a result of coping with the harassment.
Nearly 18 months after her death, the U.S. Senate passed the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act in her name. The landmark bill takes away the military's authority to prosecute sexual assault and harassment cases after accusations of ignoring complaints and sweeping them under the rug.
In Texas, a similar bill called the Vanessa Guillén Act went into effect in September 2021.
In August, Guillen's family filed a lawsuit seeking $35 million in damages from the U.S. government.
“This will be an opportunity for every victim to feel not only like they have a voice but that they can be made whole,” attorney Natalie Khawam said.
Honoring Guillen's memory
"I Am Vanessa Guillen" sheds new light on Guillen's military dreams, as well as her murder.
It also focuses on her family's efforts to bring change.
Director Christy Wegener said Guillen's documentary is "not a traditional crime documentary by any means," and that there's a bigger mission behind it.
The location of the dedication also holds a special place for Guillén's family.
"This is where I get my coffee every morning," Guillén's sister Mayra wrote in a tweet. "What are the odds? Love you sis."