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US Marine jailed for transgender woman's slaying

By Associated Press in Olongapo, Philippines (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-02 08:16

A Philippine court convicted a US Marine on Tuesday of killing a Filipino last year after he discovered in a hotel she was a transgender woman.

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted of homicide by first strangling Jennifer Laude and then dunking her head into a toilet bowl in the hotel they had checked into after meeting in a disco bar in Olongapo, a city northwest of Manila. He was sentenced to six to 12 years in jail, with time already spent in detention credited, said Court Clerk Gerry Gruspe.

Laude's mother, Julita, said that while she was happy the verdict detailed everything that had transpired, she was not pleased with the jail term because she had hoped Penderton would be found guilty of murder, a more serious crime than homicide.

"But the important thing is he will be jailed," she said, crying. "My son's life is not wasted."

Outside the courthouse, a small number of left-wing activists rejoiced but warned that they would closely watch to ensure Pemberton is detained in a Philippine jail, as the judge ordered.

The Oct 11, 2014, killing sparked anger in the Philippines and reignited calls by left-wing groups and nationalists for an end to the US' military presence in the country.

Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts, was one of thousands of American and Philippine military personnel who participated in a joint exercise last year. He and a group of other Marines were on leave after the exercise and met Laude and her friends at a bar in Olongapo, a city known for its nightlife located outside Subic Bay, a former US naval base. At least two witnesses testified that Laude was a sex worker.

Pemberton and Laude left the bar and checked in together at a nearby hotel. About 30 minutes later, Pemberton walked out, leaving the room's door ajar, according to hotel staff.

A fight erupts

Pemberton testified in August that he had choked Laude during a fight that erupted when he discovered she was a transgender woman, but said she was still alive when he left her in a shower, according to his lawyer, Rowena Garcia Flores.

Lawyers of the Laude family, however, said Laude was dead when Pemberton left her. Police have said that Laude had apparently been drowned in a toilet.

In the decision, Regional Trial Court Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde ordered Pemberton jailed at the New Bilibid Prison, a national penitentiary in suburban Muntinlupa City.

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