WASHINGTON – Within five days of Spc. Vanessa Guillen‘s disappearance from Ft. Hood, Army and other investigators had focused on Spc. Aaron Robinson as the primary suspect.
But developing enough evidence to lock him up took months, senior Army criminal investigators said Friday, as they detailed how Robinson fled his barracks last month as officials closed in.
“We were working those issues throughout the day and into the evening of the 30th of June, but Robinson was able to flee the area before we were able to complete the legal processing and command coordinations necessary to put him in some sort of pretrial confinement or lock down,” said an Army official familiar with the investigation.
Robinson was able to obtain a weapon and kill himself before police could arrest him on June 30 for the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen. Her mutilated remains were found several weeks after her murder near Ft. Hood where she and Robinson had been stationed. She had last been seen alive on April 22.
The death of Guillen, 20, has sparked outrage over the Army’s handling of her disappearance amid concerns that she had also been sexually harassed at the base.
“Slow to react to her disappearance and slow to arrest Robinson,” said Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders, a group that advocates for victims of sexual assault in the military. “It’s really unbelievable from a public safety point that they let a suspected murderer have access to a weapon.”
But Brig. Gen. Duane Miller, deputy commanding general of Army Criminal Investigation Command said developing the case against Robinson required more than 300 interviews and forensic exams of 50 cellphones.
“This is why it takes so long and is complicated,” Miller said.
Within five days of Guillen’s disappearance, investigators began to focus on Robinson’s alibi as he was one of the last people known to have seen her.
“We’ve developed no information to support that Robinson and Guillen had any sort of social or personal relationship,” the Army official said. “Everything that we’ve uncovered indicates that all of their contact and interaction was professional and related to work. Again, we don’t we don’t say that there wasn’t something there. But we don’t have any information or evidence to support that there was some sort of issue between the two of them, whether it be of a sexual nature or otherwise.”
There is also no evidence that Guillen filed a formal complaint but may have been harassed in an unrelated matter that is under investigation.
“Those issues were referred to the command and were part of a larger commander’s investigation into potential sexual assault within the organization,” the official said.
It’s not clear how Robinson, who worked in an armory at Ft. Hood, had access to the weapon he used to kill himself, according to the Army. But the firearm was not a military weapon.