The Army is now convinced there was “foul play” involved in the two-month-old disappearance of Fort Hood Soldier Vanessa Guillen, Rep. Sylvia García, D-Texas, said Tuesday.
“They have now used the words foul play. They are convinced now that there is foul play involved and they are following all the leads they can,” the congresswoman said at a Fort Hood press conference that was live streamed on social media.
After weeks of protests, Guillen’s father, sisters, García and their attorney Natalie Khawam met with military investigators and officials at Fort Hood, Texas, where Guillen was serving and last seen. Her mother, Gloria Guillen, was also invited, but she said at the press conference that after she saw images of soldiers searching for her daughter in a river, she felt too ill to attend.
Rep. Garcia said the military provided a timeline and some answers to their questions, but not the detailed “tick-tock” of Guillen's activities that they had hoped to get. García said she thought military officials were as forthcoming as they could be in the midst of a criminal investigation.
Military officials did not participate in Tuesday's news conference. NBC News reached out to Fort Hood for response.
Guillen, a 20-year-old private first class in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, was last seen April 22, at a Fort Hood parking lot. Her car and barracks room keys, identification card and wallet were found in the armory room where she was working the day she disappeared, Fort Hood officials have said.
Her disappearance has drawn local protests, while celebrities such as Salma Hayek have joined in the effort to draw attention to her disappearance.
Guillen's family has said they have been frustrated with how the military responded to their concerns when they could not reach her that night and with the investigation since then.
"I pleaded with them from the beginning that they search for my daughter, that they close the base and that they use the more than 30,000 soldiers to look for her and they never did it," said Gloria Guillen, speaking in Spanish at the press conference. "I begged them to close the base and investigate room by room, barrack by barrack, building by building and they didn't do it. Why now are they doing a show to look for my daughter?"
She said tearfully that her daughter told her since she was 10 that she was going to join the military. "I thought it was kid's play, then she entered her teens and entered high school. She enrolled and I was scared. In my heart as a mom, I feared I would suffer," said Guillen.
García said the military has pulled phone records and reviewed credit card and security records. Information on when she was last seen is based on interviews with people, however no camera video exists, which the family and their attorney said they found odd.
"So many gaps and holes"
The military confirmed Guillen was last heard from at 11:30 a.m. based on phone records. The family's attorney Natalie Khawam said that a text was sent from Guillen’s phone on the day she was last heard from, notifying a supervisor of a serial number of one of the weapons she had to review.
Khawam questioned why such important military information would be texted and whether the text actually came from Guillen or someone using her phone. Guillen’s phone has not been found, Rep. Garcia said.
García said there continue to be discrepancies between the family’s timeline and what the investigators have detailed.
One has emerged regarding whether Guillen was in her barracks when routine head counts took place.
“In at least one, it was admitted the supervisor or sergeant who actually is supposed to account for everyone in the barrack submitted a report that everyone was accounted for when, in fact, now he’s admitted that he did not see Vanessa,” said Garcia.
She said there should have been three or four different checks at the barracks by the end of the day.
Khawam said the family shared with military officials that Guillen had told them as well as friends that a sergeant had followed her into a shower while she was naked.
“We suspect that person was her supervisor the same day after she was missing,” the attorney said.
The family also said she was not supposed to work on the day of her disappearance, but was called in to work and they want to know who called her in.
The family said the military would not provide names of who her supervisor was nor provide names of witnesses.
“There’s so many gaps and holes in what we learned today that I am going to demand a congressional investigation. For this family, we want to know what happened and who is covering up to who and why are they covering up,” Khawam said.
“I feel like we we're not going to resolve this down here,” she said. “We need the higher ups now.”
In a separate case of a missing soldier, the Army announced Sunday that it had identified skeletal remains of Private Gregory Morales, 24, of Sapulpa, Oklahoma in the town of Killeen, where Fort Hood is located.
The military said they suspect foul play. Morales, who also used the last name Wedel, had been missing since Aug. 20, 2019. He was scheduled to be discharged from the Army in a couple of days.
Military officials say they have no information to connect Morales’ case to Guillen’s. The Army is offering $25,000 rewards for information in each of the cases.