PAMPANGA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A friend and fellow United States Marine told the local court here on Tuesday, May 19, that Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton admitted to him last October that he might have choked to death a transgender.
US Marine Lance Corporal Jairn Michael Rose took the witness stand at the Olongapo regional trial court, recalling how Pemberton came to him shortly after the incident to say he choked the victim, dragged her to the rest room of a motel, and “I think I may have killed a he-she.” Rose was .
Pemberton, who came to Olongapo for the joint military exercises of Philippine and American troops, is accused of killing Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude last October.
Rose, one of 4 of Pemberton's shipmates and friends who took the stand, testified that he and Pemberton learned on the job how to do hand-to-hand combat, including choking using the arm lock from behind a target. He demonstrated in court how the arm lock is done.
One of the private lawyers for the Laude family, Virgie Suarez, told the media that Rose and Pemberton had been buddies since they joined the US Marines in August 2013.
Defense lawyer Benjamin Tolosa confirmed with Agence France-Presse after the hearing that "some admissions were made," but declined to elaborate.
'Punched and choked'
Rose’s testimony jibed with the earlier testimony of Philippine National Police (PNP) medico-legal for Central Luzon, Dr Reynaldo Dave, who did the autopsy on Laude.
Dave told the court on Monday, May 18, that Laude’s body bore signs the victim was punched and choked before dying by drowning.
During his turn at the witness stand, Dave acknowledged the autopsy report he did and described the 64 photos of the actual autopsy depicting all the injuries sustained by Laude.
Dave said the traumatic injuries on Laude’s neck meant that too much pressure was applied on the area that it produced bleeding, thus the conclusion that the victim was strangled.
He also said there was suppression, as shown by the hematoma in the victim's larynx, that might have been caused by the “arm lock.” The oozing of fluids in the lungs was a sign of drowning.
The PNP medico-legal expert noted that the injuries also showed that Laude was dragged and made very little defense or resistance.
Pemberton, 19, was also present in court when Dave took the witness stand.
Three other shipmates and friends of Pemberton – Sergeant Christopher Miller, Sergeant Bennett Eric Dahl, and Lance Corporal Daniel Fabian Pulido – also took the stand. Suarez said that two of them had been with the defendant at the bar before he checked into the hotel with the victim.
He added that the fourth marine who took the stand was a non-commissioned officer who was the immediate superior of Pemberton and the other marines.
The 4 had earlier met with public prosecutors at the Department of Justice in Manila.
In that May 15 meeting that lasted 7 hours, the 3 US marines, accompanied by their military lawyers, were quoted by a DOJ official saying they left the ship at the same time as Pemberton on October 11, 2014.
Pemberton reportedly confided in Rose and Miller.
Rose also told the court that he called his parents in the United States to ask for advice after Pemberton confessed. Pemberton, said Rose, is a close friend.
'Even though they are friends'
The victim's sister Marilou Laude said that she was satisfied with the outcome of the day's hearings.
"Even though they are friends, they are only telling the truth. I appreciate that very much," she said.
The 19-year-old Pemberton and his shipmates and buddies from the USS Peleliu had been part of the Philippines-U.S. Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) and were on shore leave at the time of the killing.
The US servicemen were at the Ambyanz Nightlife Bar where they reportedly saw Pemberton “talking to a person they thought was a woman.”
The two were later seen checking in at the nearby Celzone Lodge motel, where Laude's body was found slumped beside a toilet. – with reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com