Struggling in the Darkness | Conrad Roy
In The Episode
Trevor Young 00:03
You're listening to Facing Evil, a production of iHeart Radio and Tenderfoot TV. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the individuals participating in the show, and do not represent those of iHeart Radio or Tenderfoot TV. This podcast contains subject matter which may not be suitable for everyone. Listener discretion is advised.
Rasha Pecoraro 00:26
Hello everyone. Welcome back to Facing Evil from Tenderfoot TV and iHeart Radio. We are your hosts. I'm Rasha Pecoraro.
Yvette Gentile 00:36
And, I am Yvette Gentille and we are here as always, with our amazing producer, Trevor Young.
Trevor Young 00:42
Yvette Gentile 00:43
Rasha Pecoraro 00:44
The Texan always comes out.
Trevor Young 00:48
I'll tell you what.
Yvette Gentile 00:51
So Rash, what's going on with my beautiful niece? Leilani Rose, like, what
Rasha Pecoraro 00:56
Leilani Rose is currently sequestered up in her room because she has COVID and her moms do not. I had it not that long ago. So I'm the only one that's kind of around or like, allowed around her with my mask on. But Vanna is immunocompromised so she can not be around her.
Yvette Gentile 01:16
Eiy-ye-yi. I mean, I've had it. Trevor, did you get COVID?
Trevor Young 01:20
Oh, I got it just a couple of weeks ago for the first time. It was not fun.
Rasha Pecoraro 01:22
How did you do? Do you know how you got it? Because I know I got it from my sister Yvette.
Yvette Gentile 01:29
Trevor Young 01:30
I have no idea. I mean, so we're in this kind of weird space now where masks are pretty much like suggested but not mandatory anywhere anymore. Right.
Rasha Pecoraro 01:38
Trevor Young 01:38
So I don't know you can get it anywhere. Now. You can get it at the grocery store. You know, even if you are wearing a mask yourself.
Rasha Pecoraro 01:44
Yeah, yeah, I wear it everywhere.
Trevor Young 01:45
So I have no idea but I don't want to do it again.
Yvette Gentile 01:49
Yeah, no, neither do I. And again, I don't know where I got it. Either, Rasha.
Rasha Pecoraro 01:53
Yvette Gentile 01:55
Okay, enough of our COVID stories. Trevor, will you take us through today's case?
News Clip 02:02
For the first time new court documents reveal a possible motive for Vanessa Guillen's murder. The meanings with CIT were useless. There was no new information and for them not to give us an answer was like the problem is inside. The high profile case sparked new rules about sexual assault in the military. How could she go missing on a military base? That's ridiculous. Go find her and better find her.
Trevor Young 02:28
On April 22 2020, not long after the start of the COVID pandemic, 20 year old US Army soldier Vanessa Guillen went missing. Vanessa had been stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and her time there had been difficult. There were rumors that another soldier there had been harassing her. She told her mother that she was being stalked and sexually assaulted, but nothing had been done about it. And after she went missing, the military base did little to investigate the disappearance. Then, about two months later, her dismembered body was found inside cement near the Leon River a few miles away. It quickly became clear that the man who had been harassing her, another soldier named Aaron Robinson was her killer. He was shortly detained by military base personnel. But then he escaped. He found a car and drove it off of the base. The authorities gave chase and he was eventually cornered and trapped. Robinson then shot and killed himself. So why didn't Fort Hood do more to investigate Vanessa's disappearance? How many other cases are there like hers? And what does her story reveal to us about sexism in the military? An issue that quite often leads to violence.
Yvette Gentile 03:50
So I remember hearing about this case, as it was happening in 2020. I mean, we were all witnessing horrible things happening, you know, with COVID, and all sorts of things. But as if things weren't bad enough, in the world, we were watching this tragedy unfold at Fort Hood, and this story was all over the news.
Rasha Pecoraro 04:16
Yeah, I saw it all over social media, and, of course, the news, but I, let's be real, I get most of my news from social media. But what grabbed me and made me so grossed out was the negligence of the Fort Hood military base. Obviously, of course, the crime itself was gruesome and terrible, but I kept thinking about how all of this could have been avoided in the first place.
Yvette Gentile 04:44
I know exactly. I mean, this is this is why we're talking about this case, especially being female in the military. I mean, we know how challenging that is, in this case brings up an issue that we need to bring more attention to. So, Trevor, I know you have some statistics. Can you just tell us what those numbers are?
Trevor Young 05:05
Sure. Here's a bit of research for you. So one of the things we found was a recent survey done by George Mason University. And they found that 68% of women said they experienced gender discrimination in the military. And 66% said they had experienced sexual harassment or assault. It also showed that in 2017, 5277 service members reported being sexually assaulted during their time in the military, compared to just 4794, the year prior 2016.
Rasha Pecoraro 05:39
That's crazy. To me. It's It's so wild that most people who are not in the military do not know about this or don't realize how bad it actually is. But I think that Vanessa's story is such an eye opener, and I think it gives us a glimpse into the realities of what it's like being a woman in the military.
Yvette Gentile 06:02
Exactly. Rasha. So let's just jump into it then. So Trevor, can you please tell us about Vanessa's life and her background? Just give us you know, some information on Vanessa?
Trevor Young 06:15
Yeah, of course. So Vanessa was born on September 30th 1999, in Houston, Texas. Her parents were Rogelio and Gloria Guillen, and they were from Zacatecas State in Mexico. Vanessa was one of six siblings, so pretty big family. And by all accounts, Vanessa had a pretty normal big family sort of upbringing. And in 2018, she graduated from Cesar Chavez High School, where she was in the top 15% of her class. So pretty gifted kid. Then in June of 2018, right after she graduated, Vanessa enlisted in the Army. She trained as a 91 F, which essentially is a Small Arms and Artillery Repairer, so they work with weapons, and she was stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, one of the biggest military bases in the country. And by all accounts, she was independent, strong willed, and according to her friend, Ashley Macias, enlisted in the Army to prove herself and others that she was capable of really anything.
Rasha Pecoraro 07:16
Basically, it sounds like she was a badass.
Yvette Gentile 07:17
She was a badass.
Rasha Pecoraro 07:19
I mean, really. Unfortunately, though, I think Vanessa got a lot more than she signed up for. While at Fort Hood, Vanessa told her mother that she didn't feel safe there. She didn't feel safe at Fort Hood. And she actually told her that one sergeant in particular, had been regularly sexually harassing her.
Yvette Gentile 07:41
I remember reading that her mother Gloria said that she kept asking Vanessa to give her the name of that particular sergeant, but Vanessa wouldn't do it. I mean, for me, when I think about this story, and just you know, doing the research, I really feel like Vanessa was scared to tell her mom because she knew if she would tell her mom, like her mom was going to raise hell, right. Like she she was going to find out what was going on, what was happening to her daughter? I mean, what do you guys think? Do you think she was embarrassed? Or she didn't want to stir up trouble at the military? What do you guys think?
Trevor Young 08:17
To me, I think she was intimidated by the sort of military personnel and the sort of politics that happen on military bases. I have a feeling she knew that it probably wouldn't go well for her to rat out a fellow soldier, especially somebody that was a superior. I think Fort Hood was really good about creating a culture of silence inside the, inside the base, you know, they didn't really want any sort of drama. To me, I think she was just kind of like, you know, why bother, you know, they're not going to really do anything about it anyways, even if I speak up and say something, so.
Rasha Pecoraro 08:51
I can totally see that. But it makes me so sad that, you know, that she possibly felt that way. You know, I was reading that Vanessa told her mom that the base was, quote, unquote, "evil," and that she was actually having trouble sleeping at night, and she'd never had, you know, trouble sleeping before. I'm sure all of everything that you both said, you know, made it so that she didn't want to come forward. But it's interesting to me that, you know, she said that the base was evil.
Trevor Young 09:19
And I'll say something from Texas. People talk about Fort Hood, in not so flattering terms. I think it's kind of one of those places you kind of avoid like the plague, Kellin, especially.
Rasha Pecoraro 09:31
Like is it always had a bad rap?
Trevor Young 09:32
Yeah, it's just kind of like a small town with not a lot going on other than the base. And it's just like kind of joyless outside of the military base, you know, and I doubt the military base provides much joy either, so I don't know. Yeah, it's just kind of has a weird reputation. I can't speak specifically because I don't know anybody who's been in the military or gone there. But I do know that those kind of bad vibes that you're describing are, are very much like felt in the state of Texas.
Rasha Pecoraro 10:02
Yeah, especially for you growing up there in Austin, but yeah,
Yvette Gentile 10:05
Yeah, alright. So anyways, even though she wouldn't tell her mom who he was. Vanessa did tell a friend and she told her friend, Sierra, that the man's name was Aaron R. and that He most recently had walked in on her in the shower. First of all, that's disgusting.
Rasha Pecoraro 10:26
Yvette Gentile 10:27
And he should have been reprimanded for that
Rasha Pecoraro 10:30
Oh immediately. And it could have stopped right there. But he didn't.
Trevor Young 10:33
Right. And then things just got even more tough for Vanessa. In the fall of 2019, Vanessa returned home after a brief combat training stint in the Mojave Desert in California. Gloria, her mom said that her daughter was very withdrawn when she came home. And when she asked her what the matter was, Vanessa told her quote, "I'm very tired, Mommy, I just want to get out of the military."
Rasha Pecoraro 10:58
That breaks my heart.
Yvette Gentile 11:00
I know. Yeah. Well, there was at least one good thing that did happen in Vanessa's life. And this happened in March of 2020. And Vanessa became engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Juan Cruz. But that was, of course, just a month or so before she went missing. And Cruz saw Vanessa for the last time on April 19, 2020, when she had to go back to Fort Hood. And that was just three days before she went missing.
Trevor Young 11:30
And we'll talk about what happened after we take a quick break.
Rasha Pecoraro 11:38
Okay, so let's talk about that fateful day, the day that Vanessa goes missing. So on April 22, of 2020. Vanessa is working in the arms room on the base, and she sent her last communication, which was a text at 10:23am. She sent a text confirming the serial number of a machine gun. She was then last seen around 1pm in a parking lot at Fort Hood. Her barracks room key, her car keys, her wallet, and her ID were all left behind in the arms room where she worked.
Trevor Young 12:14
Right and that's already suspicious. I mean, people don't just leave their wallet and car keys behind, right. Anyways, so around 6pm, a good friend of hers named Jay Hightower says he went looking for her. Her roommate didn't know where she was, and her Jeep was still parked in the parking lot. So Hightower, of course is starting to get suspicious. And then around 10pm Hightower found out that the last person she'd worked with in the arms room was specialist Aaron Robinson. This would appear to be the same Aaron R. that Vanessa had told her friends Ciara about. So Vanessa was a private first class. And that would mean that Aaron Robinson was technically ranked above her as a specialist. Hightower says that he called Robinson and Robinson acted like he had just woke up, and he denied even talking to Vanessa that day, which seems already incredibly unlikely.
Yvette Gentile 13:06
I mean, come on, like, we all know, like he's lying.
Rasha Pecoraro 13:11
I mean, at least like, oh, last time I saw her was, you know, in arms room.
Yvette Gentile 13:14
This is baffling. I mean, anyone with a brain? Right? It would be clear by now that this guy is responsible for whatever he's already done to her. Right. Yeah. Okay. Let me just calm down.
Rasha Pecoraro 13:29
Yvette Gentile 13:30
So we now know that Vanessa was summoned in the late morning by Robinson, to the armory room. Okay, she read him serial numbers, and he supposedly gave her orders to service some weapons. So the whole thing about him not talking to her or knowing where she was is bullshit, complete and utter bullshit.
Trevor Young 13:58
Keep in mind, you know, these are documents that were reviewed later, much later, after the fact about, like, where he was that day. So at the time, it's not confirmed, that said, like, there should have been some record of where he was working, like on a call sheet or something.
Yvette Gentile 14:15
But you know, don't you think because it's a military base, right. Do you think everything's documented, but you would think there are cameras everywhere to know who is coming and going from which area? Right?
Trevor Young 14:26
Yeah, I have a hard time believing that an arms room at Fort Hood doesn't have some CCTV on it.
Yvette Gentile 14:30
That's what I'm saying.
Rasha Pecoraro 14:31
Exactly. So after Hightower was looking for Vanessa, her family by this time knows that she's gone missing. So then Vanessa's sisters and her fiance drove up together from Houston that night. They arrived at Fort Hood at about 2:30am in the morning, and officials made them wait until 9am to enter. So finally they met with military police that day, but learned nothing nada about what had happened to Vanessa. So of course, you know, Vanessa's family immediately thought her disappearance was suspicious. They didn't trust the Army's investigation efforts at all. And they felt like they were being completely left in the dark.
Yvette Gentile 15:19
Which they were!
Rasha Pecoraro 15:20
Trevor Young 15:22
Yeah, they weren't being super well taken care of, I mean, being forced to wait until 9am to enter the base. That's just after being there for what like seven hours is, yeah, unreasonable. So one more thing to note here is that during this time, there were actually two people, two witnesses who actually saw Robinson pulling a very large what they call a tough box, which is just like a big container box on wheels. And it looks really heavy. So he was coming out of the arms room, the same room where he worked and where Vanessa was, with this box. And then he loaded the box into his vehicle and drove away presumably off the base. So.
Yvette Gentile 15:59
I mean, come on, guys, like you, you, me, Trevor. We would all think that, boom, slam dunk. This is the guy, right?
Trevor Young 16:09
No, they don't. Instead, on April 24, the army officially declares Vanessa to be a wall, which is short for absent without official leave. And at the time of said announcement, there was also no active protocols in place for missing soldiers at Fort Hood. And also, since this was the very start of the COVID pandemic, the base was running at a limited capacity and was far less active than normal, basically, meaning they're not really planning on devoting any resources to Vanessa's disappearance.
Rasha Pecoraro 16:42
Which is so heartbreaking and one of the many failures in my humble opinion of Fort Hood, but they did at least interview Robinson, who said that Vanessa actually left the arms room that day without him. Then he went to spend the night with his girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar off the base. So investigators said the Aguilar backed up Robinson's alibi, and they took it at face value. And then they just left Robinson alone. And then for a few months, nothing.
Trevor Young 17:15
Supposedly the investigations like ongoing but there's not really any developments, right?
Yvette Gentile 17:19
So yeah, this is about when I started hearing about it on the news. And I remember it was probably in mid June. And I remember hearing that the army had raised the reward for info about Vanessa from $25,000 to 50,000. And also, there was a rapper by the name of Baby Bash, and I remember that because he's he's from the Bay Area, Vallejo born, and he added another $5,000 to the reward. And also the actress Salma Hayek posted about it. She put up photos of Vanessa on her Instagram page every single day.
Rasha Pecoraro 17:21
I think it's wonderful that people like Baby Bash and Salma Hayek were using their platform for good. And I have to commend Vanessa's family because they created the hashtag, #findVanessaGuillen. And I really think they're the ones that propelled finding Vanessa forward. I'm one of the people that loves social media. Of course, you know, there's times where you do want to turn it off. But I think this is one of the times where it was so impactful. I think it's one of the reasons I think that Vanessa eventually was found.
Trevor Young 18:31
Yeah, I never really saw this celebrity stuff. But I did see the hashtag going around. Yeah, this is like, not long after the George Floyd. Yeah, yeah. incidents were going on. So I think there was definitely a big rallying around social media as a way to, you know, raise awareness of certain issues at that time. So as you mentioned, there was a bit of tree shaking, and then it would be about two months after she went missing that they would finally find something. Of course, by then it was too late. So we need to take another break real quick. But when we come back, we'll talk about what happened after they found Vanessa.
Rasha Pecoraro 19:11
So on June 23, of 2022 months after Vanessa's disappearance, the army finally announces that they believe foul play is involved, like duh. Just a week later, on June 30, partial human remains were discovered along the Leon River in Bell County, Texas. So apparently, investigators had already searched the Leon River, but they didn't have any luck at that time. But on this particular day, there were contractors that were working on offense when they smelled a very horrible odor nearby, and so they reported it, they called local police and soon the Texas Rangers and Fort Hood CID, which are the Criminal Investigation Division from Fort Hood. They were all soon on the scene.
Trevor Young 20:11
Right? And it's weird to me this it had to be contractors, right? Not even law enforcement that found this. But anyways, you can probably guess what they found. They found three different shallow graves of human remains that had been buried and covered in concrete. And in one of them, there was a lock of hair that was sticking out of the concrete.
Rasha Pecoraro 20:33
I can't even imagine, like you have this like horrible odor. Right? And then to discover that, like, I can't even imagine being the person who found her.
Yvette Gentile 20:45
Yeah. So with all of these developments, investigators start looking again at Aaron Robinson. And they go to his girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar. And then she, okay, get this she flat out, admits that Robinson told her that he did indeed, kill Vanessa Guillen. And she also says she even saw Vanessa's remains in the tough box that he carded out of the arms room where he claimed to kill her.
Rasha Pecoraro 21:20
And she still stayed with him.
Yvette Gentile 21:21
And she's only been with him for two months.
Rasha Pecoraro 21:26
Oh, that's right.
Yvette Gentile 21:26
They've only been in a relationship for two months.
Rasha Pecoraro 21:29
I totally forgot about that. Because she was married to somebody else and dating him. Yeah,
Yvette Gentile 21:34
But now you're going to someone you hardly even know you're going to
Rasha Pecoraro 21:39
be an accessory to murder.
Trevor Young 21:41
Yeah, so this gets weirder. Robinson also told her that he struck Vanessa multiple times with a hammer in that said arms room. Aguilar even said that she drove with him to the Leon River to help him dispose of the body. So she told investigators that they actively dismembered the body, they dug the three separate graves. And then they came back two days later to bury them and cover them with concrete
Rasha Pecoraro 22:07
Yvette Gentile 22:08
That's I mean,
Rasha Pecoraro 22:10
I'm like, totally disgusted, of course. But one good thing I can say that Aguilar did, at least at this point, she actually starts working with police. And she makes a recorded phone call to her boyfriend, Robinson, while police listen in. And although they don't get much, he never actually denies anything that they did to Guillen. So he didn't fully admit anything. But he didn't deny it either.
Yvette Gentile 22:40
I mean, what do you think, after all this, that they would finally arrest him? Right? But But no, no, they don't. And for whatever reason, Robinson was still not arrested. Instead, he was put under watch at Fort Hood within an unarmed guard that was keeping an eye on him. But he was also left to keep his cell phone.
Rasha Pecoraro 23:05
That's just ridiculous.
Yvette Gentile 23:07
Trevor, why can you tell me why?
Trevor Young 23:09
Why they would let him keep his cell phone? It's unbelievable to me, I cannot believe that if they thought he was responsible for murder, that they would give him any form of communication to the outside world. And this becomes a problem later, because he kind of finds out about this, right? So I mean, really, all you can call what they're doing now is just lightly detaining him. There were a couple of officers who expressed concern that he might run or flee. And, you know, they texted a few people amongst themselves at the base that should he tried to flee that they should, quote unquote, tackle his ass, if he you know, ran away. But in a moment of, again, comedic incompetence. That order about tackling him was not given to the person guarding Robinson at that time. He was left out of the conversation. And so of course, Robinson kind of figures out what's going on. And he runs for it, he just runs out of the room. He escapes. And off he goes, They're holding him. That's an air quotes. Okay, and off he goes. Yeah, clearly, not very hard, right.
Rasha Pecoraro 24:15
I loved what you said, Trevor, comedic incompetence.
Yvette Gentile 24:19
Either its comedic, incompetent, or somebody was helping him.
Trevor Young 24:26
I mean, I'd say it's totally plausible that they're actively thinking of ways to cover up the situation. And this time, I do think that makes a lot of sense. I think this you know, base has already proven that they're very risk averse and don't like bad PR, and they don't like anything getting off the base. You know, that's like the whole culture that they've built around Fort Hood. So I bet in this moment, what they're thinking is like, okay, clearly something bad happened here. How do we keep this from getting out,
Rasha Pecoraro 24:54
Trevor Young 24:54
How was he you know, Robinson under control and calm and safe and you know, We'll make sure everything's taken care of, but then he clearly has other ideas. Right? Right. And they weren't prepared for that.
Rasha Pecoraro 25:07
No, they were so not prepared that he got into a car and he drove off the base. I know at least one person, I guess was chasing him, but nobody caught him. So I mean, I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they were in COVID probably had a skeleton crew, right? I mean, yes,
Yvette Gentile 25:27
It definitely it was during COVID. But still, right, you're on a base, you are still on a military base.
Rasha Pecoraro 25:33
And holding someone who may have murdered someone.
Trevor Young 25:36
To me the weirdest thing is regardless of how many people you have working, there's still a line of communication that has to be carried down through your ranks.
Rasha Pecoraro 25:44
Trevor Young 25:45
Especially like the person most you know, relevant to the situation, which would be the person guarding him. You know, even if you can only spare one person, that doesn't mean that that one person should be like left out of the the sort of reality of the situation. Yeah.
Rasha Pecoraro 26:00
And what about the front gate like I've been on and off military bases, just to play softball, like the typical lesbian that I am. But you can't just drive off a military base, like you have to check in at a gate. Like they don't just be like, oh, here, bye. See you later.
Yvette Gentile 26:15
Yeah, it doesn't that little thing doesn't go up just because you drive close. You know, when it opens up, you have to get permission to come on and go off the base. So that's what's so alarming.
Rasha Pecoraro 26:27
So his girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, after Robinson made it off the bass, she helped police to figure out where he was actually hiding. And about two hours after he left Fort Hood in the middle of the street. Authorities converged on Robinson. Robinson then pulled out a gun and shot and killed himself, rather than be arrested for the murder of Vanessa Guillen.
Trevor Young 26:58
So with Robinson now dead, we should probably tell you very briefly what happened to his girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar. So on July 13 2021, Aguilar was indicted by a federal grand jury on 11 counts related to Vanessa's murder. So some of the charges that were listed in that indictment involve Aguilar's role in being an accessory after the fact, of course, including destroying the body of Vanessa, as we talked about, as well as some of the records or documents and issuing false statements in the federal case. So on July 14, Aguilar pleaded not guilty to the three counts of conspiracy to tamper with evidence, which is bizarre. Yeah. But as of now, as of today, at the time of this recording, she is still awaiting a trial date. So.
Rasha Pecoraro 27:47
I'd like to take a minute to talk about Fort Hood, and how they responded to this entire situation. And of course, I think the broader conversation that needs to be had about sexism in the military. Because I think Vanessa's story is an unfortunate reality for so many women who serve in all branches of the military. We mentioned, you know, some statistics at the beginning of the episode. But it's clear that there is a long standing culture of a patriarchy and of male dominance and sexism that is prevalent in our United States Armed Force.,
Yvette Gentile 28:32
Absolutely Rasha, and there are serious issues at Fort Hood. In fact, there have been a shocking number of crimes committed there and many of which are still unsolved or under investigated, for instance, like the death of Lawrence Schrader in 2007, where he died from dehydration and hypothermia. And, you know, in every case, we go and we research and I was looking up Lawrence's name, and it would not pop up, like I could not find it. And how I mean, that's, that's so sad. You know, there's also been two mass shootings and a number of suicides at Fort Hood. So, I go back to what Vanessa was feeling and what she told her mom about how she felt that that base was evil. And it to me, it just feels like there's evil that is festering or that has been festering on this particular land for a long, long time. And all of this, all of this needs to be brought to the light.
Trevor Young 29:36
And it would appear that the numbers tend to back up that claim. According to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Fort Hood actually has one of the highest crime rates in the army of all the bases in the country. In fact, Vanity Fair reported that in 2020 alone, at least 39 Fort Hood soldiers died or went missing, which means that Vanessa's case was just one of many that year. So 13 killed themselves. Five were murdered, and 11 of those deaths still are unsolved.
Rasha Pecoraro 30:07
And we've only heard about Vanessa.
Yvette Gentile 30:09
Trevor Young 30:09
Yeah. I mean, like Yvette was saying, you know, Lawrence Raiders a case that somehow we just don't know about, and I can't find anything on. And I'm sure it's gonna be just as hard for any of those other 38 cases that we know a little about.
Yvette Gentile 30:24
So sad. And I just I think of the family, like, just devastating.
Trevor Young 30:31
To me, it's all just about the way that, you know, military bases work. I think they try to be really insular, like we've been saying, and I think they want to kind of keep all their problems contained on their borders. And without that kind of transparency, there's not a lot of accountability. And that lack of accountability, paired with a really like sort of toxic environment, you know, this really male dominated environment that you were describing Rasha, I think that's like, yeah, like, that's a horrible combination. That's the kind of thing you need checks and balances on. And the fact that they've created an environment where they don't have to have those checks and balances is super dangerous, as we're seeing.
Rasha Pecoraro 31:12
There have been though a few changes at Fort Hood, since Vanessa's murder, so a little bit of accountability. Right. So on December 8 of 2021, the Army announced that 14 senior officers would face punishment in response to quote unquote, leadership failures related to Vanessa's death, as well as the potential harassment that she had faced. So that's some good news. Right.
Trevor Young 31:38
Right. I also want to read this quote from CNN that I found. "The decision marks one of the largest disciplinary actions ever taken by the service, underscoring the seriousness of the problems at Fort Hood, and broader concerns related to how the military as a whole is grappling with issues of sexual assault, harassment, and violence within its ranks." And I think what that's really speaking to is how this sort of toxic culture that we've been describing impacts female soldiers at an alarming rate, like we were talking about at the beginning of the episode.
Yvette Gentile 32:10
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, okay. I am, I like to be the bearer of good news. So there is some good news that came from Vanessa's case. And all of the attention on Fort Hood. So on December 15, the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act was passed, finally by the US Senate. Trevor, can you please tell us about this?
Trevor Young 32:34
Yeah. So the bill essentially strips the military's authority to prosecute sexual assault cases, if they've been accused of ignoring complaints, or sweeping them under the rug. So now soldiers can report incidents of harassment to outside third party authorities who can then take on the case themselves, and investigate them properly. So when the military is not doing their job, there is now a separate agency who can receive these sorts of complaints and issues and actually do something about it. And that's great. Like, that's the accountability that we needed.
Rasha Pecoraro 33:05
I was just about to say, accountability.
Yvette Gentile 33:08
Yes, that's huge. That's huge.
Rasha Pecoraro 33:12
And the bill was signed into law by President Biden, and it took effect on January 1 of 2022. And I have to say, I think it's so beautiful. Again, you know, me with my hashtags. The hashtag, I Am Vanessa Guillen, people have been using that hashtag to report their own sexual harassment. So even if they're not confident enough to say it to authorities, they're at least doing that on social media. And they're inspired by Vanessa. So it's, it's amazing. And then now there's actually a bill that signed into law that can help the Vanessa's of the world, right, who were too afraid to report the horrible things that that happened to them. And I love that.
Yvette Gentile 33:57
Right, or who are afraid of any type of retaliation now they have a place that they can go and people will hear them?
Rasha Pecoraro 34:11
Yes. All right. It's time for our last segment of the day, our Imua.
Yvette Gentile 34:16
And that is right. We want to dedicate this image to all our female soldiers and service women who take great pride in serving our country and protecting us. Our hope is that your country will start to take great care and pride in you.
Rasha Pecoraro 34:36
Absolutely. You deserve to be safe, to be respected, to be honored. So we hope that more positive changes are made soon to honor your needs. We want to pay our respects to the soldiers who have been killed or gone missing, like Vanessa onward and upward. Imua. Well, that's our show for today. We'd love to hear what you thought about today's discussion. And if there's a case that you'd like us to cover, find us on social media or email us at facing evil email@example.com
Yvette Gentile 35:18
And to all our servicemen and women who serve with integrity, dignity, and honesty, we salute you. And we thank you until next time, aloha.
Trevor Young 35:46
Facing Evil is a production of iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV. The show is hosted by Rasha Pecoraro and Yvette Gentile. Matt Frederick and Alex Williams are executive producers on behalf of iHeartRadio with producers Trevor Young and Jesse Funk. Donald Albright and Payne Lindsey, are executive producers on behalf of Tenderfoot. TV, alongside producer Tracy Kaplan. Our researcher is Claudia Dafrico. Original Music by Makeup and Vanity Set.
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