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U.S. Marine Convicted Of Killing Transgender Woman In Philippines

| by Jared Keever
Police photo of PembertonPolice photo of Pemberton

On Dec. 1, a Philippine court convicted a U.S. Marine of killing a transgender woman in a hotel room last year. 

An Olongapo court sentenced Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton to up to 12 years in prison, CNN and the Associated Press reports.

Pemberton was convicted of homicide — a crime considered less severe than murder in the Philippine courts — for strangling Jennifer Laude in October 2014.

Laude’s body was found in a hotel room in Olongapo, a city about 80 miles northwest of Manila. 

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Authorities believe Pemberton met Laude at a nearby disco and the two later went to the hotel room where Pemberton became angry after discovering Laude had male genitalia. 

Witnesses testified that Pemberton likely squeezed Laude’s neck and dunked her head in a toilet. 

Pemberton, 19, was an anti-tank missile operator with the Marines. He was in the Philippines last year with thousands of other U.S. serviceman participating in joint exercises with Philippine military personnel. He was on leave with other colleagues the night of Laude’s death. 

At least two witnesses at trial testified that Laude was a sex worker, according to the AP. Pemberton was initially identified as Laude’s companion the night of her death by a hotel bell boy, CNN reports. 

Two of Pemberton’s Marine colleagues testified at trial that Pemberton later told them, “I think I killed a he/she,” according to the AP. 

Laude’s mother, Julita Laude, said she had hoped for a murder conviction which would have drawn a more severe sentence. 

“But the important thing is he will be jailed,” she said, according to the AP. “My son's life is not wasted.”

The judge in the case said she downgraded the conviction to homicide because conditions of cruelty and treachery were not proven. 

The Laude family lawyer, Harry Roque, seemed to disagree, saying, “This is a bittersweet victory because it is not murder,” adding that “if what he did isn't cruelty, I don't know what is.”

The court sentenced Pemberton to six to 12 years behind bars, with credit given for time already spent in custody. He will also be detained at a Philippine military camp for about a year to pay Laude’s family roughly $98,000 in damages.

Sources: CNN, AP via ABC News / Photo credit: Olongapo City Police via Inquirer.net