MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Philippine government prosecutors charged with murder Monday detained US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton for the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude last October 11. saying the suspect acknowledged attacking the victim after he found out she was a transgender.
Prosecutor Emilie de los Santos said there was “probable cause” that Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, who has been detained since shortly after the October incident, killed Jennifer Laude, whose former name was Jeffrey, in the motel room where the victim’s body was found in Olongapo city, northwest of Manila. She had apparently been strangled and drowned in a toilet bowl.
“It’s murder,” de los Santos told reporters after filing the charge against the 19-year-old Pemberton before a regional court. “It was aggravated by treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty.”
According to news report, the murder charge is a non-bailable one. Pemberton had requested prosecutors to reduce the murder charge to a homicide, the maximum jail term for which is 20 years, compared to 40 years for a murder.
Laude’s death sparked nationwide protests and the public outcry pressured the Philippine government to seek the transfer of Pemberton’s detention from a US warship to military headquarters in Manila.
President Benigno Aquino on the other hand had stated in October that he did not want the crime to affect relations between Manila and Washington. “Name me any place that doesn’t have any crime. And the sin of one person should be reflective of the entire country? I don’t think so,” Aquino had said in October, according to report.
In 2006 US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was sentenced to 40 years in jail after being found guilty of raping a Filipina a year earlier.
Smith, however, walked free in 2009 after his accuser recanted her statement, prompting an appellate court to acquit him.