“Too many stories” of murders, sexual assault and harassment at Fort Hood prompt outside investigation
(CBS News) -An independent group of investigators from the U.S. Army will be probing the rise of serious crimes at Fort Hood, Texas, involving the military base's soldiers. At least nine service members have been found dead at Fort Hood, and in more than half of those cases, foul play has not been ruled out.
As recently as Monday, local police arrested two of the base's soldiers for their alleged involvement in a sex trafficking scheme.
"The numbers are high here," Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in a press conference. "They are the highest and most cases for sexual assault and harassment and murders for our entire formation, U.S. Army."
McCarthy vowed they would "put every resource" the Army had into "fixing these problems."
One of the most recent high-profile cases is the April murder of 20-year-old Specialist Vanessa Guillen, whose body was received by her family on Monday after a delay in which FBI investigators took over the case and took a fresh look at all existing evidence.
A public memorial will be held for Guillen on Friday in Houston, after which her family will hold a private burial Saturday.
Until then, her sister Mayra Guillen said this week would be the "hardest."
"We're going to be with her and not the way that we want to be, but, you know, at least we're going to give her proper respect, and that way she could rest in peace finally, after this long journey," she told CBS News' Mireya Villarreal
Guillen's murder got the attention of President Trump, giving the family an opportunity to travel to the White House and Washington, D.C., where they pushed for outside investigators to take over the case instead of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.
Mayra Guillen said they had lost trust in CID just days into the investigation.
"You know, a lot of details were left out. They didn't want to share any type of information. I just felt that, you know, that they weren't capable of doing the investigation," she said.
While searching for Guillen, investigators found the remains of fellow Fort Hood solider Gregory Wendel Morales near the base. Morales had disappeared 10 months prior and had been classified as AWOL. His family is still searching for answers as to what happened to him.
"It's quite alarming to see what's happening at Fort Hood," said veteran Melissa Bryant, who was once stationed at the base. "This movement has been galvanized because we know that we can and must do better right now."
Bryant is now pushing for Congress to pass legislation that would make reporting easier for members of the military, and potentially take the investigation of sexual assault and harassment cases out of the Army's change of command.
For the family of Vanessa Guillen, who allegedly reported sexual harassment at the base before she was murdered, the goal to "do better" starts with taking her and the other murders seriously.
"They finally acknowledged that it was a murder, and that there's a big problem," Mayra Guillen said. "I do feel that day by day they are taking this more seriously because they're seeing that it's not just us at this point. It's one too many stories coming out and, you know. I shouldn't be glad about it, but at the same time, it points out that there's some type of problem and we have to find out what it is."
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