US Marine charged with murder of transgender woman in Philippines

Prosecutors in the Philippines on Monday charged a 19-year-old US Marine in the killing of a transgender woman, alleging that the American strangled and drowned the victim in a toilet after the two returned to a motel room together.

Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton faces a murder charge in the October death of the Filipino, Jennifer Laude, in what transgender advocates have called a hate crime.

The prosecutor, Emily de los Santos, told reporters that Pemberton’s alleged act was “aggravated by treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty,” according to news services.

According to the Philippine National Police, Pemberton met Laude, 26, and another transgender woman named Barbie at a disco bar while on shore leave in Olongapo City, about 50 miles (80km) northwest of Manila. 

Soldier did not know Laude was transgender

The three checked into a motel, but police said Laude later told the other woman they should leave before Pemberton could discover that they were transgender.

Laude was found next to a toilet by the motel clerk, dead by apparent drowning.

Pemberton was identified by the clerk and by Barbie in a photo lineup.

The Marine has since been transferred from a US assault ship docked off the Philippines to a detention facility on land. He remains in US custody.

In evidence submitted in court by prosecutors, one of the three Marines who was with Pemberton during the night in question said the suspect allegedly confessed to attacking the woman he was with, according to the Associated Press.

Marine Lance Cpl Jairn Michael Rose said Pemberton confided in him that, after Laude undressed and he discovered she was transgender, he choked her with his arm until she stopped moving.


He allegedly then dragged her into the bathroom.

Neither Pemberton nor his representatives have commented on the case.

“The Marine Corps is working closely and cooperating fully with Philippine authorities to ensure a thorough investigation is completed and due process of law is followed,” said Col Brad Bartelt, a spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.

Pemberton, who is stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, was among 3,500 US troops in the Philippines to participate in joint military exercises. He was promoted to his current rank on Oct. 1, a few days before the alleged murder.

The Marine Corps, which will pay for Pemberton’s legal representation, has hired a law firm in the Philippines to represent him in this case. - Washington Post 

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