Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old transgender woman, was found strangled and drowned in a hotel room in Olongapo City on Saturday where she had stayed with a man she had met at a bar that night, who the hotel staff described as a “foreigner” with “close cropped hair.” The man has been identified by the police as a U.S. Marine, though his name has not been disclosed. The woman was found beside a toilet shortly after checking in, and two used condoms were also found nearby.
The U.S. military is willing to cooperate with the local authorities, though they have yet to turn over the suspected killer. Protesters took to the streets on Wednesday, pleading for custody of the suspect and ending their protest with a mock American flag-burning.
“This will not affect our relationship with the United States,” insists Filipino Military chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, though the protesters seemed to feel differently about the incident, chanting “U.S. troops out now” in response to their decision not to turn over the suspect to the police until charges are filed.
The suspect was in the Philippines during a shared military exercise with U.S. and Filipino troops. The exercise had ended the day before the murder took place.
Though a motive has not been determined, investigators consider it unlikely that Laude was killed because of her transgender status based on the existence of two used condoms in the trash can nearby where she died. Since there was no sign of a struggle in the bedroom and none of Laude’s belongings were found missing, one suspected motive is that Laude stole from him.
Regardless of the reasoning, transgender activists are calling the murder unjustifiable and are asking for the Marine to be turned over to Filipino authorities. Though they have not turned him over as of yet, the U.S. Marines have been cooperative with the investigation and will not allow the troops or their ships to leave until the matter is settled.
The suspect is currently being held on the USS Peleliu along with three possible witnesses.