A U.S. Marine is in custody Sunday following the apparent killing of a transgender individual in the Philippines.
The Marine, whose identity has not been released, is being held on board the amphibious assault ship Peleliu while agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service piece together what happened Saturday night at the Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City, according to an internal Navy memo obtained by Marine Corps Times. Local Philippine police also are investigating the matter.
The Marine is assigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The infantry unit is deployed to the Philippines as part of a joint training exercise. Three other Marines from the same unit, described as potential witnesses, also have been detained aboard the ship, according to the memo, which was distributed to dozens of senior Navy officials, as well as NCIS and State Department personnel.
Reached Sunday night, Marine Corps officials at the Pentagon declined to comment and directed Marine Corps Times to the U.S. embassy in Manila. Attempts to reach the embassy were not immediately successful. A spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Pacific in Hawaii also declined to comment.
Local media in the Philippines broke the story Sunday afternoon. U.S. officials there were bracing for protests as the news spread, the Navy memo indicates.
The victim was identified as 26-year-old Jeffrey Laude, police told Inquirer.net. Laude’s body was found just before midnight Saturday and apparently showed signs of strangulation.
Laude’s friend, who accompanied Laude and “a foreigner” to the hotel, reportedly told police they’d been at a local disco bar. Soon after they arrived at the hotel, Laude became uneasy and asked the friend to leave before “the foreigner could discover that they were transgenders,” Inquirer.net reported.
Thousands of U.S. troops are in the Philippines for PHIBLEX 15, a multinational exercise. The Peleliu is on a port call in Subic Bay that is scheduled through Tuesday, the Navy memo indicates.