The Army has launched an investigation into allegations that Vanessa Guillen had been sexually harassed on base before she vanished two months ago. The 20-year-old private first class disappeared April 22 from the parking lot of her job at Fort Hood. She has not been seen, or heard from, since.
Pressure has mounted in recent days for military officials to do more in their search for the missing woman. Her family said she had complained of being sexually harassed by a superior, but was afraid to come forward for fear she would face retaliation.
Col. Ralph Overland, commander of the 3rd Calvary Regiment, said in a statement that he has created a team to investigate those claims.
“I take allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and we are conducting a thorough investigation,” Overland said in the written statement Thursday. “The 3rd Calvary Regiment continues to aggressively search for Pfc. Guillen and will not stop until we find her."
The Army Criminal Investigation Command said Guillen, last seen in the parking lot of her military unit's headquarters, was wearing a black T-shirt and purple fitness pants. Her car and room keys, identification card and wallet were found in an armory room where she had been working.
At a Zoom press conference Tuesday, the woman's desperate mother, speaking in Spanish, said, "What happened was two months ago. Why did she disappear? For the love of God, I can't bear one day more. I want to know the truth."
Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia, who appeared with Gloria Guillen, said her office had requested help from the FBI and had opened a congressional inquiry.
"We need to get to the bottom of this," Garcia said. "We need to 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."
Her family said Guillen had spoken of a sergeant who had been sexually harassing her, but did not say the person's name and did not report it to superiors. Relatives said they were told there was no surveillance camera in the armory where Guillen worked on the day she disappeared.
Reward money for information about the missing soldier has risen to $55,000. Anyone with knowledge of her disappearance is urged to call Army investigators at 254-495-7767.