US House investigates Fort Hood following soldier deaths
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The U.S. House is launching an investigation into recent incidents and the leadership response at Fort Hood after 28 soldiers from the U.S. Army base in Central Texas died this year.
Democratic Reps. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and Jackie Speier of California sent a letter to U.S. Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy requesting documents and information on the deaths.
According to the letter, the subcommittees will jointly investigate if recent deaths “may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command.”
Lynch chairs the Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security, and Speier leads the Committee on Armed Services' Subcommittee on Military Personnel.
On Aug. 1, the Army announced changes in Fort Hood leadership and named the senior commander who will lead an investigation into the handling of the disappearance and death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen whose murder was the catalyst for the increasingly intense scrutiny of the post.
Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson IV will become deputy commanding general for operations of III Corps and acting senior commander of Fort Hood effective Wednesday, replacing the post’s acting commander Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was to have moved to El Paso to assume command of Fort Bliss.
“This previously-scheduled change in leadership will enable continuity of command as III Corps returns from its role leading the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve,” the Army said in a press release.
Richardson served from 2019 to 2020 as FORSCOM’s director of operations and in March 2020 was selected by the Department of the Army to serve as the next deputy commanding general of III Corps.
Guillen was last seen sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on April 22 in the parking lot of her 3rd Cavalry Regiment Engineer Squadron Headquarters.
Keys to her car and her barracks room and her ID card and wallet were later found in the armory room where she had worked earlier in the day.
More than two months later, on June 30, contractors working on a fence along the Leon River discovered what appeared to be human remains.
Investigators searched the area “and identified scattered human remains that appeared to have been placed into a concrete-like substance and buried.”
The remains were later confirmed to be Guillen’s.
Cecily Anne Aguilar, 22, of Killeen, who’s accused of helping her boyfriend dismember and bury Guillen’s body was named in a three-count federal indictment Tuesday charging one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and two counts of tampering with evidence.
Each count carries a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
She remains in custody after pleading not guilty to the charges.
Aguilar, the indictment alleges, conspired with her boyfriend, Spc. Aaron David Robinson, of Calumet City, Ill, “to corruptly alter, destroy, mutilate and conceal evidence, including the victim’s body in order to prevent Robinson from being charged with and prosecuted for any crime” and that Aguilar tampered with evidence in this case, including the victim’s body, to impair its integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding," the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
A chilling federal affidavit released on July 2 says Robinson beat Guillen, with a hammer and that her body was later dismembered and burned.
Robinson shot himself in the head early in the morning on July 1 in the 4700 block of East Rancier Avenue as Killeen officers approached him.
He died at the scene.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.