The Army now suspects "foul play" in the two-month-old disappearance of soldier Vanessa Guillen, officials said. “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,” said Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia at a Fort Hood press conference Tuesday.
The 20-year-old private first class vanished from the parking lot of her job at the Georgia military base on April 22 and has not been heard from since. Her distraught family has pushed Army investigators to do more in finding Guillen, and Garcia initiated a congressional probe into her disappearance.
There have been several protests calling for more action from officials. Guillen’s father, sisters, family attorney Natalie Khawam and Garcia met with military investigators Tuesday at Fort Hood.
"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.
"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 at the press conference.
Vanessa had enlisted in the Army fresh out of high school, fulfilling a lifelong dream to serve her country, her mother said. She had seemed subdued before her disappearance and spoke of a sergeant who was sexually harassing her, and had followed her into the showers and stalked her when she went on runs around the base, her family said.
Army criminal investigators said they were looking into those allegations, but had found no credible evidence. Vanessa did not name the person she said was harassing her, and did not report it out of fear of being retaliated against, her family said.
The family also said she was not supposed to work on the day she vanished, but was called in to work. They have asked for the identity of the caller, but the military declined to provide the names of her supervisor and witnesses they have interviewed, her relatives said
Congresswoman Garcia said there were discrepancies in military accounts of Guillen's whereabouts, including an instance where she was reported present during a barracks check the day she vanished.
“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,” Garcia said.
She said there should have been three or four different checks at the barracks by day's end.
Vanessa last used her cellphone at 11:30 a.m. the day she disappeared, according to investigators. Her phone has not been recovered. Her car and barracks room keys, base identification card and wallet were found in the armory room where she had been working, Fort Hood authorities have said.
"As we have stated from the day we opened a very extensive investigation on 23 April, we have not ruled anything in or out and are looking at all possibilities," Chris Grey, Chief of Public Affairs, USA Criminal Investigation Command, told a local station.
"At this point, and after the results of investigative information that has been developed in the last few days, we suspect foul play in the disappearance of PFC Vanessa Guillen," he said.
Anyone with information should contact Army CID Special Agents at 254-495-7767 or the Military Police Desk at 254-287-4001, he said.
Reward monies totaling $55,000 have been offered for information about her whereabouts.