MANILA, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Prosecutors in the Philippines charged a U.S. Marine in the October death of a transgender woman in a case that sparked widespread protests and anti-American sentiment across the country.
Laude was found dead on Oct. 11 in a Olongapo hotel room, about 50 miles outside Manila. She was naked, and her head was in a toilet. Authorities said Pemberton and Laude were at a disco before checking into the hotel.
Prosecutor Emily delos Santos said authorities found probable cause to file murder charges after reviewing information related to the case, including documents submitted by the U.S. Navy's criminal investigations service and the Philippine National Police. He was charged with murder, rather than the lesser offense of homicide, because of the violent nature of the death, authorities said.
Reading from a 23-page report detailing the preliminary investigation, Delos Santos said the crime was a homicide because there was cruelty, treachery and abuse of superior strength.
Laude's death sparked widespread protests from people demanding justice for the woman. Many protesters are questioning whether Pemberton is receiving preferential treatment because of his military status. Pemberton was originally being held on a U.S. Navy ship but was later transferred to a Quezon City facility jointly run by the Philippines and U.S. governments.
The case comes as the U.S. and Philippines close a deal on a military agreement that allows the United States to build military facilities and station ships, equipment and aircraft in the Philippines.