Vanessa Guillen’s fiancé Juan Cruz knew soldier was ‘the one’ – he says in new interview


The fiancé of murdered US Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen is speaking publicly for the first time, revealing he learned about her horrific death after seeing posts on Twitter.    

Guillen, 20, disappeared from a Texas Army base last April after telling her family she was being sexually harassed – and her dismembered and buried remains were found on June 30 near the Leon River.  

Prosecutors said she’d been killed by another soldier, Specialist Aaron Robinson, 20, who’d been accused of sexual harassment. Robinson was detained, but escaped – when he then killed himself. 

A damning Army investigation in the wake of Guillen’s murder led to the firing or suspension last year of 14 officers and soldiers at the Fort Hood base in Texas after it uncovered chronic leadership failures that contributed to a widespread pattern of violence including murder, sexual assaults and harassment.   

Guillen’s boyfriend, Juan Cruz, 22, revealed in an interview set to air Friday night that he didn’t learn about the horrific killing of his girlfriend, Guillen, until he was scrolling on social media and saw posts about it.

‘I clicked on the conversation that was happening and I started to listen to the story of what happened,’ Cruz said. ‘So I was at work … I started getting anxiety attacks. I got in my car and I started to cry.’

On the 20/20 special on ABC News, Cruz spoke about the first time he met Guillen.

‘At a quinceanera, she looked at me once and I said, “Man, she’s pretty'” Cruz said in Spanish in a clip obtained by DailyMail.com, referring to a birthday party for a 15 year old. ‘And we danced all night and that’s how I met her.’

‘I knew she was the one,’ Cruz added in English. He said the two became engaged in March 2020.

‘She was beside me … we were all happy,’ Cruz continues.

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In a special on ABC News set to air Friday, Juan Cruz spoke about the time he met Guillen: Both of them are pictured

In a special on ABC News set to air Friday, Juan Cruz spoke about the time he met Guillen: Both of them are pictured

Cruz and Guillen became engaged in March 2020, a month before her disappearance

Cruz and Guillen became engaged in March 2020, a month before her disappearance

Cruz and Guillen became engaged in March 2020, a month before her disappearance

Cruz last saw Guillen on April 19, 2020, three days before Guillen went missing.

‘She told me, “I love you. Goodnight.” Then, the next day, she woke up, like, at 5 in the morning to leave to Fort Hood… I was still asleep but I remember she gave me a kiss and she left,’ Cruz says.

The ABC story set to air doesn’t detail what Cruz now does for work or where he’s living; it’s not clear. 

Meanwhile, Guillen last year had planned to hike with a friend on the day she went missing. Investigators say she reported to work in the morning, went to the arms room and last communicated around 10:23am before friends and family became worried later in the day. 

Tay Hightower, her hiking companion, learned around 10pm that the last person she was with was Aaron Robinson and spoke with him, with Robinson claiming he hadn’t spoken to Guillen earlier.

The military police and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division ultimately became involved as rumors swirled about what happened to Guillen. 

The Army designated Guillen as being AWOL two days after her disappearance.

Robinson told investigators that Guillen left the arms room after finishing a task and he later went to be with his girlfriend, who backed up his claim.

He learned about the details of Guillen's murder when he saw them pop up on Twitter

He learned about the details of Guillen’s murder when he saw them pop up on Twitter

Spc. Guillen, 20, (left) disappeared from the Killeen, Texas base in April and her dismembered and buried remains were found on June 30 near the Leon River

Officials said fellow soldier Aaron Robinson, 20, (pictured) was the main suspect in her killing

Guillen, 20, (left) disappeared from the Texas, base in April 2020 and her dismembered and buried remains were found on June 30 near the Leon River. Officials said fellow soldier Aaron Robinson, 20, (right) was the main suspect in her killing

Meanwhile, the Army made several missteps in their investigation, from searching the wrong spot to ‘mistakenly’ marking her present on the day she went missing.

Gloria Guillen, Vanessa’s mother, began speaking publicly about sexual harassment her daughter had been facing, blowing the story wide open. 

Investigators later discovered that Robinson’s phone pinged in Belton, Texas, by a bridge near the Leon River, about a half-hour from the base in the early morning hours shortly after Vanessa vanished.

When they went to the location, they found a burn pile, including a tough box, an item Guillen had been seen with earlier by eyewitnesses.

Investigators noted that Robinson and his girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, shared multiple phone calls the night of Guillen’s disappearance, which Aguilar said was because she couldn’t find her phone. 

Guillen, one of six children, went to her first training for the Army in June 2018

Guillen, one of six children, went to her first training for the Army in June 2018

Guillen, one of six children, went to her first training for the Army in June 2018

Investigators believe Robinson bludgeoned Guillen, 20, to death with a hammer, removed her body from an armory at Fort Hood, and then dismembered her and buried her remains on April 22, 2020.

Guillen’s remains were found near the Leon River in Bell County, Texas on June 30.

‘The way that he knew that it was Vanessa was because he described her hair to me,’ Mayra Guillen said of the discovery of Vanessa’s remains. ‘And I just dropped my phone and it was just like everything came to an end.’ 

According to an Army report released in April, Robinson was detained shortly after Guillen’s remains were found, but he was allowed to escape. A few hours later, he fatally shot himself as police were about to take him into custody.

Robinson’s former girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, has been charged with helping Robinson hide Guillen’s body and impeding the investigation. She told investigators Robinson admitted to the killing when she was prompted the day Guillen’s remains were found.

Aguilar has pleaded not guilty and her lawyers have filed a motion to have the case tossed. 

The Army report from April details the final hours of Robinson’s life. 

At around 5pm on June 30, just hours after workers found Guillen’s remains in a shallow grave, a member of the Army Criminal Investigation Command called Robinson’s unit and told them to put the specialist under strict observation.

Robinson was told he was being detained for violating COVID-19 quarantine rules. He was then placed inside a conference room where an unarmed soldier was guarding the door.

Vanessa's aunt Alma Garcia (C), Juan Cruz, the fiancé of US Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen and family members embrace during the public memorial service in honor of the soldier at Chavez High School on August 14, 2020, in Houston, Texas

Vanessa’s aunt Alma Garcia (C), Juan Cruz, the fiancé of US Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen and family members embrace during the public memorial service in honor of the soldier at Chavez High School on August 14, 2020, in Houston, Texas

Juan Cruz, boyfriend of Army soldier Vanessa Guillen, kneels in front of a mural honoring her

Juan Cruz, boyfriend of Army soldier Vanessa Guillen, kneels in front of a mural honoring her

Pictured: Guillen from a Facebook photo. Her remains were found in June 2020

Pictured: Guillen from a Facebook photo. Her remains were found in June 2020

While Robinson was upset he was being detained, he nonetheless appeared relaxed. He spent his time in detention playing video games, according to the report. Robinson was also allowed to keep his cell phone, which was being monitored by his superiors.

A few hours later, commanders got wind of new information suggesting that Robinson would try to escape, according to the report.

In a text chain, one officer said that if he tried to escape, the guards had to ‘tackle his a** and call the MPs [military police]’.

But the soldier guarding Robinson did not get the message, according to the Army report.

Just after 10pm, Robinson received a telephone call that appeared to be from his mother.

‘Don’t believe what you hear about me,’ a guard heard Robinson say.

Several minutes later, Robinson escaped. A few hours later, he was spotted by Army and civilian police in the city of Killeen, just outside of Fort Hood.

As officers were closing in to make an arrest, Robinson pulled out a gun and shot himself dead.

Major General Gene LeBoeuf said that Robinson’s escape is still the subject of an ongoing investigation.

The report blamed a communication breakdown between the soldier’s unit and the criminal investigation agents which allowed him to flee.

The family of Guillen also demanded military officials release the name of a supervisor who sexually harassed her before she was killed by another soldier last year. 

The Army report from April said that the sexual harassment by the superior was unrelated to Guillen’s murder and that the suspected killer, Robinson, 20, had also been accused of harassing another female service member. 

Friday’s report did not name the man accused of harassing Guillen, who is said to have asked her for a threesome, over ‘privacy concerns’ because of his low rank.

He was one of 21 people hit with disciplinary action over his behavior, but Army officials did not comment further on details of that punishment.  

U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Gloria Guillen, the mother of slain Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen who was was found dead after disappearing from the army base in Texas, during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on July 30, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Gloria Guillen, the mother of slain Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen who was was found dead after disappearing from the army base in Texas, during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on July 30, 2020

Guillen’s family is relieved to have some justice, but they still don’t understand why the Army has refused to release the supervisor’s name. 

Guillen’s sister Mayra Guillén told ABC News: ‘The Army keeps trying to protect this name and I want to understand why. Why not just try to take a step forward, admit that you were wrong, fix it and make yourself look better so, the nation could trust you again.’ 

Mayra also said that her family hopes to push the US government to address sexual harassment in the military. 

‘We’re still looking to work very hard on this so we can put an end to it and not have what happened to Vanessa happen to anyone else ever again,’ she said.

The Guillén family has also joined Congress members and other activists to fight for the passage of the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act. 

The act is named after the hashtag that was used by military sexual assault survivors to denounce their experiences on social media when Guillen went missing in April 2020. 

Reps Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, and Markwayne Mullin, a Republican from Oklahoma, said the bill would make sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice. 

Guillen’s killing shocked the military and forced the high command to re-examine the extent to which a culture of sexual harassment had taken root throughout the armed forces

Guillen’s killing shocked the military and forced the high command to re-examine the extent to which a culture of sexual harassment had taken root throughout the armed forces

Guillen, one of six children, went to her first training for the Army in June 2018.

Ryan Landy, a soldier in Guillen’s unit, told 20/20 that Guillen had a memorable laugh.

‘I guess, apparently I’m kind of funny sometimes, and she’d crack up all the time. Like, her laugh was very, very contagious,’ Landy said.

‘It just seems like a nightmare when I drive through Houston,’ Cruz added. ‘I see her murals and I say to myself, “Damn, this is reality. She’s no longer here.” On the other hand, murals aren’t made for just anyone. That brought me a bit of peace to my heart.’

Guillen’s killing shocked the military and forced the high command to re-examine the extent to which a culture of sexual harassment had taken root throughout the armed forces.

The latest findings were announced as part of an investigation into Guillen’s killing and the actions of officers immediately afterward.

Last year, a separate, civilian-run probe was launched examining the overall culture at Fort Hood.

As a result of the investigation, the Army fired or suspended 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Hood and ordered policy changes to address chronic failures of leadership that contributed to a widespread pattern of violence.

An independent review found that the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Program (SHARP) failed to curb sexual assault and harassment on bases due to structural failures.

Panelists said there was a lack of training, resourcing and staffing at the SHARP office on Fort Hood.

It also found that the command climate failed to practice the program’s core values below the brigade level, which led to less trust in the program. 

The actions come after a year that saw at least 31 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood die due to suicide, homicide or accidents, including the bludgeoning death of Guillen.



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