U.S. Marine PFC Joseph Pemberton has been charged with the murder of a transgender woman in the Philippines.
Pemberton was part of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines group out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to local television news WITN. He was one of over 1,400 Marines and sailors who were participating in the annual Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise.
The victim, Jennifer Laude – formerly Jeffery – allegedly checked into the Celzone Lodge hotel in Olongapo City at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night with a “male, white foreigner.” A hotel room attendant, Elias Gallamos, said he saw the foreigner leave the room alone shortly after entering with Laude.
A few minutes later, Gallamos checked to see if the room was vacant, but saw slippers by the bathroom and left, assuming that Laude was still there.
He went back to the room around 11:45 p.m. and discovered Laude dead, with her head slumped over the toilet.
Police believe that Laude was strangled. They suspect it may have been a hate crime, similar to other such assaults or murders committed against transgender women when men feel they have been “tricked.” The Inquisitr recently reported on another transgender in Los Angeles who was shot to death by three men.
A friend of the victim told police that Laude had met a man with a “marine-style cut of hair” fitting Pemberton’s description in a bar shortly before 11 p.m., and had agreed to go back to the hotel with him.
Laude asked her friend to accompany her originally, but when they reached the hotel, she then asked him to leave before the Marine could discover they were transgenders.
The victim’s sister told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that she had asked police to prevent U.S. ships docked in Subic Bay from leaving because she felt the murderer was a service member, based on the descriptions given by the hotel clerk and Laude’s friend.
After a joint investigation by Philippine authorities and the Marines, Pemberton was officially charged with murder on Wednesday.
The Marine is currently being held on board the USS Peleliu in Subic Bay, along with three other Marines who are considered possible witnesses. However, the Philippine government wants to take custody of Pemberton while he stands trial for the murder.
Under a defense agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines, the Philippines can demand custody of a service member who has been involved in a crime. According to Time, the joint defense pact has caused tension between the two countries in the past, and the question of the U.S. Marine’s custody in this case may renew those tensions.
The foreign ministry asked American embassy officials to cooperate in the investigation and turn the Marine over to Philippine authorities because it could affect military relations between the two countries, a senior administration official said.
“We’re not saying he should be found guilty,” an official told MSN. The official declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
“There should be a process or else there will be repercussions on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.”
Marine Corps officials have not yet responded to the request to turn Pemberton over.
Do you think the U.S. should turn this Marine over to the Philippine government?
[Image via NY Daily News]