FBI: Girl­friend helped Calumet City man dis­mem­ber and bury fe­male sol­dier he killed in Texas

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY FRANK MAIN, STAFF RE­PORTER fmain@sun­times.com | @FrankMainN­ews

The girl­friend of a sol­dier from Calumet City ap­peared be­fore a judge Mon­day on charges she helped him dis­mem­ber and bury a fe­male sol­dier he killed with a ham­mer on an Army base in Texas.

The sus­pected killer — Army Spc. Aaron David Robin­son — shot him­self to death July 1 as po­lice were about to ar­rest him for killing Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood in a case that’s cap­tured na­tional at­ten­tion.

Guillen’s fam­ily be­lieves Robin­son killed her to keep her from fil­ing a sex­ual ha­rass­ment com­plaint against him.

On Mon­day, Robin­son’s girl­friend Ce­cily Aguilar told a fed­eral judge in Texas she un­der­stood the charge she faces: tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence. “Yeah, sure,” she said, ac­cord­ing to KCEN-TV.

Robin­son, 20, played var­sity foot­ball for Thorn­ton Frac­tional North High School be­fore he joined the Army in 2017. He was a com­bat en­gi­neer at Fort Hood.

Guillen, 20, was a Hous­ton na­tive sta­tioned at the base.

Aguilar, 22, is a civil­ian who was liv­ing in Killeen, Texas, near the base.

At a news conference last week, a lawyer for Guillen’s fam­ily said she was “very creeped out” af­ter Robin­son watched her in a locker room af­ter she took a shower on the base.

“We be­lieve that Vanessa told him that she was re­port­ing him, and that’s why he blud­geoned her,” at­tor­ney Natalie Khawam said.

Guillen’s fam­ily is ask­ing for fed­eral leg­is­la­tion to im­prove how the mil­i­tary deals with sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

Army of­fi­cials said last week that they didn’t have any complaints that Guillen was sex­u­ally ha­rassed but were in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Af­ter Guillen went miss­ing April 22, the hash­tag #IamVanes­saGuillen ap­peared on so­cial me­dia, putting a focus on soldiers’ sto­ries of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. On Fri­day, Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den said of her case: “We owe it to those who put on the uni­form, and to their fam­i­lies, to put an end to sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault in the mil­i­tary, and hold per­pe­tra­tors ac­count­able.”

Ac­cord­ing to the FBI, Robin­son struck Guillen in the head with a ham­mer in a weapons room where she was work­ing, then moved her body from the base in a trunk with wheels. The FBI said he picked up Aguilar at the gas sta­tion where she worked, and they drove to the Leon River about 20 miles east of the base.

Aguilar is ac­cused of help­ing Robin­son dis­mem­ber the body with a ma­chete and other tools. They tried to burn the re­mains be­fore bury­ing them in three shal­low graves and, days later, re­turned and put con­crete in the graves, ac­cord­ing to the FBI.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors learned Robin­son and Aguilar were to­gether on the bank of the Leon River based on their cell­phone data.

Guillen’s re­mains were found on the river­bank June 30.

“Baby they found pieces, they found pieces,” Robin­son warned Aguilar in a call af­ter he learned news out­lets were re­port­ing re­mains were un­earthed.

Af­ter first say­ing she didn’t know any­thing about Guillen’s dis­ap­pear­ance, Aguilar con­fessed to help­ing bury the body, but Robin­son fled, fa­tally shoot­ing him­self at about 1:30 a.m. July 1 when po­lice ap­proached him on a street in Killeen, of­fi­cials said.

A pro­posal by one of Mayor Lori Light­foot’s clos­est City Coun­cil al­lies to ban the sale of fla­vored to­bacco prod­ucts in Chicago stalled in a City Coun­cil com­mit­tee af­ter run­ning into an avalanche of op­po­si­tion.

Own­ers of gas sta­tions, con­ve­nience stores and to­bacco stores — and trade groups rep­re­sent­ing them — showed up in force at the virtual meet­ing to ac­cuse the City Coun­cil’s Com­mit­tee on Health and Hu­man Re­la­tions of “kick­ing them when they’re down.”

They ar­gued small busi­nesses are fight­ing for sur­vival af­ter a dou­ble whammy: first, the coro­n­avirus pan­demic; then, dam­age dur­ing civil un­rest, which came when many were “woe­fully un­der-in­sured.”

The last thing they need, they said, is this or­di­nance, spon­sored by Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th). They called it “leg­isla­tive over-reach” that would cost them even more busi­ness, they said, not­ing that to­bacco prod­ucts ac­count for 40% of revenue for a typ­i­cal Chicago gas sta­tion — and that 52% of that to­bacco revenue comes from fla­vored to­bacco prod­ucts.

“This is the equiv­a­lent to kick­ing this in­dus­try while they’re down. You not only lose out on fla­vored to­bacco sales to adults. You lose a sig­nif­i­cant driver of other busi­ness. When peo­ple buy to­bacco, they buy other things. So the busi­ness loses out on all of those sales. The city loses out on all of the revenue,” said Tanya Triche Da­wood, vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral coun­sel for the Illinois Re­tail Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion.

Da­wood ac­knowl­edged there is “ab­so­lutely . . . an is­sue with teen va­p­ing” but said it can be solved by “iden­ti­fy­ing prod­ucts that are at­trac­tive to teens” and ban­ning those — not by “tak­ing prod­ucts away from adults” like “to­bacco- and men­tholfla­vored vapes,” she said.

“I’m not aware of any data that shows that pipe to­bacco is gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity with teens. Nei­ther is chew. Or even men­thol cig­a­rettes. But all of these prod­ucts are in­cluded in this pro­posal,” Da­wood said.

Ri­ley King said he owns sev­eral stores, some just blocks away from bor­der sub­urbs.

“This is just one more nail in our cof­fin as far as be­ing able to sur­vive, busi­ness-wise . . . . This is just yet an­other prod­uct you’re tak­ing away from our cus­tomers . . . . With the COVID is­sue and with min­i­mum wage just go­ing up last week, it’s be­com­ing harder and harder to sur­vive,” King said.

Af­ter the hear­ing, O’Shea ac­knowl­edged he has “a lot of work to do” to build sup­port.

He said he was open to changes in re­sponse to op­po­si­tion aired dur­ing Mon­day’s hear­ing, which in­cluded fa­vor­able tes­ti­mony from pub­lic health ex­perts.

But the al­der­man ar­gued “this nexis be­tween COVID and to­bacco” is a huge prob­lem that must be ad­dressed.

Puppy-mill loop­hole closed

A le­gal loop­hole that has al­lowed pet shops to thumb their noses at Chicago’s 2014 puppy mill or­di­nance was slammed shut on Mon­day af­ter a heart­felt de­bate.

Six years ago, the City Coun­cil moved to cut off the pipe­line of pup­pies for sale in Chicago that come from for-profit breed­ers con­demned as puppy mills.

On Mon­day, the City Coun­cil’s Com­mit­tee on Health and Hu­man Re­la­tions moved to close a loop­hole that has al­lowed pet shops to get around that or­di­nance by form­ing what Ald. Brian Hop­kins (2nd) has called “phony res­cue or­ga­ni­za­tions.”

The or­di­nance ad­vanced al­lows pet shops to pro­vide space to an an­i­mal shel­ter or res­cue or­ga­ni­za­tion to house and dis­play dogs, cats and rab­bits for adop­tion.

But it also states: “The pet shop shall not have any own­er­ship or mon­e­tary in­ter­est in the an­i­mals dis­played for adop­tion. The an­i­mals may only be trans­ferred to an adopt­ing in­di­vid­ual for a nom­i­nal adop­tion fee.”

CHRISTO­PHER J. HAUG SR./FORT HOOD PUB­LIC AF­FAIRS

Army Spc. Aaron David Robin­son

BELL COUNTY, TEXAS, SHER­IFF’S OF­FICE

Ce­cily Aguilar

Spc. Vanessa Guillen. PRO­VIDED

Ald. Matt O’Shea

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