Prosecutors in the Philippines have filed murder charges in a regional court today against a US Marine accused of brutally murdering a woman in October. He is being held without bail.
Olangapo City Chief Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos stated there was "probable cause" that 19-year-old Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton killed 26-year-old Lennifer Laude, who had been horrifically strangled and drowned in a toilet bowl on October 11. Pemberton had asked for the lesser charge of homicide, but De Los Santos stated that the prosecution found "aggravating qualifying circumstances" of murder. Via Rappler:
"It's a capital offense so there will be no bail. There was aggravated treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty. That counts as a qualifying circumstance. Because you have those 3 aggravating qualifying circumstances… it's murder," De Los Santos said.
On October 11, Pemberton and three of his fellow Marines went bar-hopping in Olongapo, where they were stationed. They picked up women at a disco bar and promptly checked into separate motel rooms. Pemberton was seen (and recorded on security cameras) checking in with Laude at a motel and was also seen leaving the motel shortly before Laude's body was discovered.
Marine Lance Corporal Jairn Michael Rose, who went out with Pemberton that night, stated that upon returning to the ship Pemberton admitted to choking the woman he was with after realizing she was transgender when she undressed. Pemberton allegedly said, "I think I killed a he/she."
Jesus. It is obvious that Laude's murder was a hate crime. That she was killed due to the single fact that she was trans. The fact that Pemberton refers to her in a derogatory manner after having killed her emphasized his disdain and a striking lack of humanity.
On top of that, the case is also controversial due to a 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement between the US and the Philippines, meaning that Pemberton is still in military custody. While he was moved off the warship and onto a Philippine military base, he still enjoyed the supervision of American personnel. Meanwhile, protesters and Laude's family are demanding he face the same judicial process as would any murder suspect in the Philippines.
Image via AP.