From motel to court: The Jennifer Laude slay case

Jamaine Punzalan,

Posted at Dec 01 2015 03:52 AM | Updated as of Dec 01 2015 06:10 PM

MANILA - More than a year after Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude was found dead inside a hotel in Olongapo City, is justice finally at hand?

With the expected promulgation of the murder case against suspect US Marine Lance Corporal First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton on Tuesday, here are key events in the case:

October 12, 2014 - Laude's body was discovered inside the bathroom of Celzone Hotel in Barangay West Tapinac, Olongapo City.

Hotel staff found the lifeless Laude wrapped in a bed sheet, with her head slumped in the toilet bowl.

Police said Laude checked in at the hotel with a foreigner, who appeared to be in his mid-20s. The foreigner then left the room after about half an hour.

Initial investigation revealed Laude's neck was pressed down on the toilet seat, while her head was being shoved into the toilet bowl.

October 14, 2014 - Police identified Pemberton, then 19, as the suspect in Laude's killing.

A report said the US Marine is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The infantry unit was in the Philippines for a joint training exercise.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose said it will seek custody of Pemberton who was temporarily detained onboard USS Peleliu.

October 15, 2014 - The murder of Laude sent shockwaves across the transgender community, with various groups calling for the government to exercise its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the perpetrator of the crime.

Several groups also renewed calls to review or scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) due to its provisions granting the United States' right to the custody of Pemberton. 

The Laude family filed a murder case against the American soldier.

Marc Sueselbeck, the German fiance of Laude, issued a reaction on the murder of his girlfriend, condemning Pemberton and prejudice towards homosexuals. 

October 18, 2014 - Pemberton's colleagues started heading home after the joint training exercises in the Philippines. The suspect remained onboard USS Peleliu.

October 20, 2014 - Sueselbeck arrived in the Philippines.

October 21, 2014 - Pemberton was a no-show on the first day of the preliminary investigation into Laude’s death. His counsel appealed for more time to study the case.

October 22, 2014 - Mark Clarence Gelviro alias "Barbie," a friend of Laude’s and one of the prime witnesses in her death, said Pemberton believed they were real women, fueling fears that what happened was a hate crime against a transgender.

The suspect was transferred from USS Peleliu moored at Subic Bay to the Mutual Defense Board Security Engagement Facility in Camp Aguinaldo the next day. His custody, however, remained with the US authorities.

A Senate hearing, meanwhile, revealed Laude engaged in anal sex before she died. It was not clear, however, if Pemberton was her partner and the one who left a used condom in the crime scene.

Gelviro and Elias Gallamos, a worker in the hotel where Laude was found dead, said that Pemberton was drunk when they saw him on the night Laude was killed.

After the hearing, Laude's fiancé, Sueselbeck, and her sister, Marilou, climbed over the gate of Camp Aquinaldo, but were immediately stopped by Filipino soldiers from proceeding further into the camp.

October 24, 2014 - Laude was laid to rest. President Bengino Aquino III came under fire for not attending the burial.

October 27, 2014 - Pemberton skipped the second day of the preliminary investigation into Laude's death.

November 1, 2014 - Sueselbeck, who has been blacklisted after breaching security in Camp Aguinaldo, left the Philippines after pleading for voluntary deportation.

November 28, 2014 - Lawyer Virgie Suarez, who also represents the Laudes, revealed that the DNA samples taken from the used condoms found inside the room where Laude was found dead did not match that of the suspect and victim.

December 1, 2014 - Roque said the findings on the condoms only prove: "They did not have sex. [Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton] must have found out [Laude] is not a biological woman. It must have been the reason why he [allegedly] killed Jennifer," he said.

December 15, 2014 - Prosecutors found basis to file murder raps against Pemberton for the death of Laude, and ordered the latter to face trial for murder in a Philippine court.

December 16, 2014 - Branch 74 of the Olongapo Regional Trial Court issued a warrant of arrest for Pemberton.

December 17, 2014 - Ambassador Philip Goldberg insisted that the US won't allow Pemberton to be detained in a regular jail in Olongapo while waiting for his trial.

December 18, 2014 - The DFA revealed it will not appeal the US decision on the custody of Pemberton, saying the VFA gives the US the right to retain custody of a suspect until the completion of the judicial process.

December 19, 2014 - Pemberton appeared in court for the first time and asked for the murder trial to be postponed for 60 days.

December 22, 2014 - The US Marine urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to suspend the murder case against him, citing the failure of prosecutors to present enough evidence to charge him.

December 23, 2014 - The Olongapo RTC granted the motion of Pemberton to suspend proceedings against him because of his pending petition for review with the DOJ.

February 3, 2015 - The Olongapo RTC set the arraignment of Pemberton on February 23 after the DOJ denied his petition for review.

February 23, 2015 - Pemberton refused to enter a plea in the murder charges. The court entered a ''not guilty'' plea in his behalf.

March 23, 2015 - The murder trial of the US Marine began after the Laude family rejected his alleged plea bargain offer of P21 million.

The Laudes said Pemberton offered them money in exchange for their approval to lower the charge from murder to homicide. The American denied the offer.

May 15, 2015 - Three US servicemen who were with Pemberton in Ambyanz Disco in Olongapo City the night he met Laude submitted sworn statements to the DOJ in connection with the slay case.

May 29, 2015 - Lance Corporal Jairn Rose, Pemberton's peer, admitted at a hearing that they were trained in the Marines to choke and do an arm-lock as US servicemen.

Rose demonstrated two styles of an arm-lock that could eventually choke another person.

Roque said Rose told the court that Pemberton told him: "I think I may have killed a he or she."

June 22, 2015 - Three US experts testified in court, revealing that a "suitable latent fingerprint" of Pemberton was found in the condom wrapper recovered in the bathroom where Laude was found dead.

Another expert said the lubricant found in the condom wrapper is the same lubricant found in the Pemberton's penis and body, and Laude's anus.

A toxicologist also disproved allegations that Laude was a drug-user.

August 24, 2015 - In his direct testimony in court, Pemberton admitted hitting and choking Laude.

Pemberton alleged this was done in defense of his honor and life after there was an exchange of blows between them when he found out that a fellow male had gave him oral sex.

The US Marine said he then brought Jennifer's body to the bathroom to try to wake her up. He left Jennifer allegedly still alive inside the motel room.

August 25, 2015 - A forensic pathologist testified that the transgender died of asphyxia and not drowning as claimed by a prosecution witness.

September 18, 2015 - Laude's camp stressed rumors that a third party may have killed Laude are baseless.

Months of court hearings in the trial of Pemberton ended the same day as defense and prosecution submitted their summations.

Judge Roline Jabalde of the Olongapo RTC Branch 74 was set to render her decision on the Laude slay case Tuesday, December 1.

Pemberton would face a jail term of 20 years to life if found guilty.

The Laude camp, meanwhile, believes an international criminal complaint against the defendant is possible if he is acquitted in the Philippines.

Protesters are expected to flock the court to show support for Laude.