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.

Meanwhile, Guillen’s boyfriend, Juan Cruz, 22, has now 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

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.

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

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.

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.

14 fired or suspended at Fort Hood: Army acts after investigation sparked by Vanessa Guillen’s death finds ‘chronic failures that fostered widespread pattern of violence including murder, sexual assaults and harassment’ at base

The Army fired or suspended 14 officers and soldiers at the Fort Hood base in Texas after a damning investigation uncovered chronic leadership failures that contributed to a widespread pattern of violence including murder, sexual assaults and harassment.

In July, a panel of five civilians was formed to investigate the base’s command culture and handling of sexual harassment cases and disappearances and those results were shared publicly in December.

‘The investigation after Vanessa Guillen’s murder found Fort Hood has a command climate that was permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault,’ then Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in a press conference in December.

He said the issues plaguing Fort Hood are ‘directly related to leadership failures.’

Army Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was left in charge of the base when Guillen was killed, was fired from his post.

Army leaders had already delayed Efflandt’s planned transfer to Fort Bliss, where he was supposed to take over leadership of the 1st Armored Division, due to the investigations into the base.

The base commander, Army Lt. Gen. Pat White, will not face any administrative action because he was deployed to Iraq as the commander there for much of the year.

The leadership of Guillen’s unit, Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment were also fired.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, 1st Cavalry Division commanding general and command sergeant major, were both suspended.

Army Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was left in charge of the base when Guillen was killed, was fired following the review

Army Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was left in charge of the base when Guillen was killed, was fired following the review

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater, 1st Cavalry Division commanding general, was suspended following the review

Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, 1st Cavalry Division command sergeant major was suspended

Suspended: Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater (left) and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny (right), both of the 1st Cavalry Division, were suspended following the review

Col. Ralph Overland, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander, who was in charge of Guillen's unit, was fired following the independent review

Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment command sergeant major, who was in charge of Guillen's unit, was also fired

Fired: Col. Ralph Overland (left), the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp (right), both of whom were in charge of Guillen’s unit, were fired

Their suspension is pending the outcome of a new Army Regulation (AR) 15-6 investigation of 1st Cavalry Division’s command climate and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program.

The names of the battalion level and below commanders and leaders who received administrative action were not released.

McCarthy said the panel published nine main findings and 70 recommendations that the Army is accepting to correct the command culture at the base.

The panel said they made an effort to talk to women in every division at the base, especially those in Guillen’s unit.

The panel conducted 647 individual interviews on the base.

‘Of the 503 women we interviewed [in the investigation], we discovered 93 credible accounts of sexual assault. Of those only 59 were reported,’ said Queta Rodriguez, a member of the independent review panel.

‘And we also found 217 unreported accounts of sexual harassment. Of those only half were reported. What we discovered was over the course of those interviews, the lack of confidence in the system effected the reports of those incidents,’ she added.

The 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.

McCarthy ordered for the review in mid-July to find the ‘root causes’ of sexual harassment and violence on the base and whether the command culture and climate reflects the Army’s values.

Of the 31 deaths at the base in 2020, while some where deemed accidents, five were homicides and 10 were suicides.

‘Soldiers assaulting and harassing other Soldiers is contrary to Army values and requires a dramatic change in culture,’ Chris Swecker, the independent review panel chair, said.

‘There was a founded fear that the confidentiality of the [sexual assault] reporting process would be compromised. It took so long to get an adjudication that people never saw an adjudication,’ he added.

He said the panel’s recommendations were designed to ‘address deeply dysfunctional norms and regain soldiers’ trust,’ he added.

The panel offered new policies for the Army to implement including a restructure of the SHARP Program at Fort Hood, which they said was ineffective at the base.

The panel advised for the creation of full time Victim Advocates comprised of a hybrid of civilian and uniformed personnel and the creation of a SHARP Program Office track to monitor the life-cycle and aging of each sexual assault and harassment case and prepare a quarterly report with that information.

They also suggested new measures to better track soldier disappearances.

The panel advised for the creation of an Army-wide set of protocols for ‘failure to report’ scenarios in the critical first 24 hours of a soldier’s absence.

Under the new policy commanders will be required to list service members as absent-unknown for up to 48 hours and must do everything to locate them to determine whether their absence in voluntary before declaring them AWOL, or absent without leave.

It also includes new guidance on steps to classify soldiers as deserters.

McCarthy said the People First Task Force has been created to study the committee’s recommendations and map out a plan to enact them.

Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Pat White said: ‘There’s some candid feedback on the culture here. What was made abundantly clear is we have to fix our culture, particularly with sexual assault and harassment.’

He said changes are already underway at the base and he has set aside more than four million hours for junior leaders to work on team building and get to know their soldiers.

He said that the base was given notice of the firings and had time to prepare a ‘compassion team’ that includes a lawyer, a public affairs representative, a chaplain, behavioral health representative and a cyber awareness expert.

The five members of the independent review committee are Chris Swecker, Jonathan Harmon, Carrie Ricci, Queta Rodriguez and Jack White, who together have a combined 75 years of experience as active-duty military and law-enforcement personnel.

Chris Swecker is the former assistant director of FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division and Jonathan Harmon is a civilian trial attorney who represented Fortune 500 companies and a combat veteran who served in the Gulf War.

Carrie Ricci is 21-year Army veteran and assistant general counsel for the Department of Agriculture, Queta Rodriguez is 20-year Marines veteran and regional director for the non-profit FourBlock, and Jack White a partner at the law firm Fluet Huber Hoang in McLean, Virginia who is a West Point graduate and served five years on active duty.

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