Philippines summons US Marine in transgender murder case to court on Oct 21

A US Marine accused of killing a transgender sex worker has been summoned to appear before a prosecutor Monday after police called for him to be charged with murder, the foreign department said. -- PHOTO: AFP
A US Marine accused of killing a transgender sex worker has been summoned to appear before a prosecutor Monday after police called for him to be charged with murder, the foreign department said. -- PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (AFP) - A US Marine accused of killing a transgender sex worker has been summoned to appear before a prosecutor Monday after police called for him to be charged with murder, the foreign department said.

Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton was ordered to appear at a hearing before the prosecutor of Olongapo city on October 21, foreign department spokesman Charles Jose said Friday.

The killing, the second major case in the Philippines in nine years involving a US serviceman, threatens to test the longstanding defence ties of between Manila and Washington.

"The US government will have to produce the suspect before the prosecutor's office on Monday," Jose told a news conference after Filipino officials delivered the subpoena to the US embassy in Manila.

The US embassy did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Pemberton was detained by his superiors at a US warship docked at the northern port of Olongapo, two hours' drive from Manila, after witnesses told police he was the person last seen with the victim late Saturday.

The victim, Jeffrey Laude, who also went by the name Jennifer, was found dead in a hotel bathroom early Sunday, shortly after checking in with the suspect.

Police said the victim was found half-naked on the bathroom floor with more than a dozen bruises, cuts and bite marks. They said the victim had died from "asphyxia by drowning".

Pemberton was among more than 3,000 US troops who have taken part in joint military exercises in the Philippines from September 29-October 10.

Monday's hearing will be the start of a regular process undertaken by prosecutors to evaluate evidence gathered by police.

After the hearings, which could take days or weeks and also involves quizzing other witnesses, the prosecutor can decide to either file criminal charges in court or dismiss the complaint.

If he is charged with murder and convicted, Pemberton could face life in prison.

In 2006, another US Marine, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the 2005 rape of a young Filipina he had met in a bar near Olongapo.

The young woman recanted her statement in 2009 and prompting the court to order Smith's release.