A 20-year-old U.S. Army private at Fort Hood, Texas, who told her family that she was being sexually harassed was found dead at the base this week.
Her death has sparked fresh outrage and calls for accountability on the sprawling military base, which has a history of high rates of sexual assaults.
No Cause of Death Released, Authorities Say 'No Foul Play' Evident
The private, Ana Basaldua Ruiz, of Long Beach, California, had served for the past 15 months as a combat engineer with the 1st Cavalry Division after joining the Army in 2021. Fort Hood officials said she died Monday, but they have not released any information about the cause or manner of her death.
The Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division confirmed that "no foul play is evident," Fort Hood said in a statement Thursday.
"Army CID will continue to conduct a thorough investigation and gather all evidence and facts to ensure they discover exactly what transpired," the statement said. "Information related to any possible harassment will be addressed and investigated fully."
Ruiz Told Mother an Army Superior 'Was Harassing Her'
Ruiz's mother, Alejandra Ruiz Zarco, told Telemundo News that her daughter had told her a few weeks ago that an Army superior "was harassing her" and that she was the target of repeated sexual advances on the base.
The mother, who lives in Mexico, last spoke to her daughter on March 8. Basaldua had told her mother that she was "very sad, that she was going through very difficult things, that things were not as normal as she thought, that she couldn't tell me much, but that there was going to be a moment when we were going to be together and she could tell me everything," Ruiz told Telemundo News in Spanish.
The victim's father, Baldo Basaldua, who lives in California, said his daughter had recently told him that "her whole life was wrong, that she wanted to die," Telemundo News reported.
Killing of Vanessa Guillen
Fort Hood has been under intense scrutiny since the killing of Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old Army specialist, who was reported missing from the base in Killeen, Texas, in April 2020, after telling friends that she had been sexually harassed.
Federal prosecutors said she was killed by another soldier who later in 2020 killed himself with a pistol, days before charges were announced. A report released nearly a year after her death confirmed that Guillen had been sexually harassed by a superior.
After Guillen's killing led to protests, an investigation released in December 2020 found "major flaws" at Fort Hood and a command climate that the secretary of the Army described as "permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault." The Army ordered 14 officials, including several high-ranking leaders, to be relieved of command or suspended.