The reward to help find missing Fort Hood, Texas soldier Vanessa Guillen has doubled to $50,000, nearly two months after she disappeared. The search for Guillen has attracted nationwide attention, including support from Texas Congresswoman Sylvia García and actress Selma Hayek.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command said Guillen, 20, has not been heard from since April 22. She was last seen in the parking lot of her military unit’s headquarters in Fort Hood, wearing a black T-shirt and purple fitness-type pants. Her car and room keys, identification card and wallet were found in an armory room where she was working earlier in the day.
Congresswoman García, who represents part of the Houston area, announced in a Zoom press conference on Tuesday that her office has asked the FBI for further help and opened a congressional inquiry with the Department of Defense.
“We need to get to the bottom of this,” García said. “We need make sure that we look at every single complaint and every single allegation that is being made in this case and that we get to the bottom of it. Vanessa’s mom has made it clear that Vanessa has previously… expressed to her and her sister about not feeling safe on the base and that perhaps, being the victim of sexual assault on the base. This is very serious.”
Guillen’s mother, Gloria, told reporters at the news conference that she doesn’t trust the the Army handling the investigation.
“What happened was two months ago,” she said in Spanish. “Why did she disappear? For the love of God, I can’t bear one day more. I want to know the truth.”
Earlier this week, the Army announced a $25,000 reward for information that could find Guillen. In Tuesday’s news conference, Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a leading civil rights organization for Latinos, announced an additional $25,000 reward.
Natalie Khawam, an attorney representing the family, told CBS News on Tuesday that she wants answers for them and believes they’ve being kept in the dark. She will travel to the base on Wednesday.
“This shouldn’t be happening,” Khawam said. “This is on a federal government base. A military base. There has to be more accountability. And [there are] more protections and safeguards than anywhere else. How can you not have these answers? The irony. You talk about all these gate checks and all these security checks… yet someone goes missing? This doesn’t happen. And the fact that, she wasn’t even supposed to be working that day. She was off that day. Why did they call her in?”
Guillen is a 91F Small Arms/Artillery Repairer. She is 5 feet 2 inches tall, 126 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
Her family has been active in promoting the search online, creating a website and “Find Vanessa Guillen” campaigns on social media platforms.
The plight of Guillen’s family reached Hayek, who posted about her on her Instagram page with a message in English and Spanish: “Bring back Vanessa.” It also said in Spanish, “Vanessa, you’re not alone, we are all with you and we won’t stop until you return.”
The family’s website says Guillen told her mother she’d been sexually harassed by one of her sergeants before her disappearance, but that she didn’t want to report it and felt she could put a stop to it herself. Investigators said they have “no credible information” that she was attacked.
The Army also said there’s no known connection to the case of missing Fort Hood Private Gregory Wedel-Morales, who disappeared last August.
“We are completely committed to finding Vanessa and aggressively going after every single piece of credible information and every lead in this investigation,” said Chris Grey, spokesman for Army Criminal Investigation Division. “We will not stop until we find Vanessa.”
Grey said more than 150 people have been interviewed in Guillen’s case and the Army is working with multiple law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Belton Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety and others. The Army is also partnering with Texas EquuSearch and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to Grey.
The Army has also participated in ground and air searches on Fort Hood and throughout the Central Texas region. Grey urged anyone with information to step forward.
“We know somebody out there has some very critical information pertaining to this investigation and we strongly encourage you to do the right thing and come forward,” Grey said. “Do it for Vanessa and do it for her family, friends and fellow Soldiers.”
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