SUBIC BAY, Philippines, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- A U.S. Marine has been accused of murdering a transgender Filipino woman; the unnamed Marine is currently being held in custody.
The victim is 26-year-old Jennifer Laude, born Jeffrey.
Laude was found dead in a hotel room in Olongapo City on Saturday night, not long after witnesses said they saw her enter with a male of "white complexion, with marine-style cut of hair" -- according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Laude's naked body was found partially covered with a blanket, her head tipped over the rim of the toilet, in the bathroom. An initial autopsy listed the young woman's cause of death as "asphyxiation by drowning."
Laude and another transgender woman reportedly met the murder suspect, one of many Marines currently stationed at Subic Bay, at a bar and made arrangements to go to a hotel together. The victim's friend departed before the other two checked in to the hotel room.
The amphibious assault ship Peleliu is currently serving as a brig for the accused Marine, while agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigate the murder allegations. Three other Marines, described as witnesses, have also been detained according to an internal memo obtained by the Marine Corps Times.
The developments have unfolded at a time of heightened tension between the U.S. and the Philippines as leaders of the two nations recently signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which will see a influx of American forces rotating through the archipelago's many bases. The presence of American forces is mostly welcomed, but not without criticism. The latest incident will likely inflame opponents of the agreement.
Critics of the relationship complain that the Visiting Forces Agreement -- one of the documents which dictates the legal relationship between the two nations and their military forces -- limits the authority of local police in matters involving U.S. military members.
In 2005, Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith was sentenced to 40 years by a Philippine judge after being convicted of rape. But he was detained in the U.S. Embassy, never handed over to local jails and eventually returned home after a settlement with the victim's family.