'I Am Vanessa Guillén,' New Netflix Documentary, Examines How a Soldier's Brutal Murder Ignited a Movement

Vanessa Guillen
Vanessa Guillén went missing from Fort Hood in 2020. Her body was found in pieces some 20 miles from the base.Getty

Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year-old soldier murdered at Fort Hood, received little attention until her family revolted and went public.

A Netflix documentary chronicles the horrific murder of a female soldier on the Fort Hood Army Base and how it prompted a national battle against sexual harassment in the military.

The 95-minute film "I Am Vanessa Guillén," directed by Christy Wegener, will be available for streaming beginning Thursday.

It's a detailed look at the deeply disturbing case of a 20-year-old Texas woman who dreamed of a military career, only to experience a violent death after she complained of being sexually harassed by a superior at a military installation long plagued by accusations of harassment, missing soldiers and violence.

One long year after her killing, a U.S. Army investigation determined Guillén's claims of being sexually harassed had been ignored by her superiors.

As a result, a total of 21 soldiers were relieved of duty or reprimanded. "We, as an Army, failed to protect Spc. Guillén," Major General LeBoeuf, the Army Forces Command's chief of staff, said in a news conference at the time.

The private first class soldier vanished two years ago on an April Sunday, in broad daylight, from Fort Hood, the third-largest Army base in the country. Her family would later say she spoke of being sexually harassed at the Texas installation, and of being afraid to report it. 

The vanishing of a young woman from a massive military base went largely unreported in the national media until her relatives, and their attorney, began holding press conferences, accusing Army officials of dragging their feet and deliberately misleading them. National marches and demonstrations followed. Politicians, celebrities and women's advocates took up her cause. They demanded she be found.

Two months later, Guillén's body was finally found, in pieces, buried in concrete some 20 miles from Fort Hood. She had been beaten to death inside an armory on base, authorities said, and her blood was on the walls and then washed off, said the family's attorney at a news briefing.

The suspect in her killing, a fellow soldier, shot himself to death as military police approached to arrest him. 

In the months following her disappearance and death, a nationwide movement grew from a legion of women who stepped forward to offer their own experiences under the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillén.

Politicians and celebrities took up the battle. The public spotlight grew so bright, U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy held a press conference to acknowledge Fort Hood had the highest number of sexual assaults and harassment in the entire branch of the military. He apologized to Guillén's family.

The documentary features politicians and advocates such as Democratic U.S. House Rep. Jackie Speier and the mother and sisters of Guillén. The three relatives held press conferences, journeyed to Washington, D.C., and met with then-President Donald Trump seeking answers.

"My sister is no joke. My sister is a human being. And I want justice. My sister did not do this to herself. Someone did it," and angry and tearful Lupe Guillén told reporters after her sister's dismembered body was discovered.

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