OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines — A Philippine court on Feb. 23 entered a not guilty plea for a U.S. Marine who allegedly murdered a transgender woman.
The Associated Press reported that Marine Pfc. Joseph Pemberton refused to enter a plea during a brief court appearance in Olongapo City outside of Manila, the Philippine capital.
Local prosecutors contend Pemberton met Jennifer Laude, 26, at a nightclub on Oct. 11, 2014, while the USS Peleliu was docked at the Subic Bay Freeport, which is adjacent to Olongapo City on the Philippines’ main island of Luzon. Laude’s naked body was later found in a motel bathroom.
The trans woman’s death sparked widespread outrage among Philippine LGBT rights advocates. Laude’s murder also highlighted opposition to the U.S. military presence in the country.
“Jennifer has become our martyr, the symbol of our suffering as a community,” Angie Umbac, president of the Rainbow Rights Project, a Philippine LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade shortly after Laude’s death.
The Associated Press reported that lawyers who are representing Laude’s family said Pemberton’s trial is expected to begin next month.