Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was sentenced to 6 to 12 years behind bars Tuesday

By Chris Harris
December 01, 2015 12:25 PM

A spokesman for the Department of Justice in the Philippines confirms to PEOPLE that Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted on Tuesday of killing a Filipino transgender woman in a hotel last year.

Pemberton, a Marine from Massachusetts, was sentenced to 6 to 12 years for strangling Jennifer Laude, who he met in a bar last October in Olongapo city, which is northwest of Manila.

Joseph Scott Pemberton

After strangling Laude in the hotel room, Pemberton drowned her in the toilet bowl, the court found. Hotel staffers told authorities that Pemberton exited the room 30 minutes after the two first entered, leaving the door ajar.

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Laude was a sex worker and Pemberton was in the Philippines participating in joint military exercises.

This summer, Pemberton testified in court that he choked Laude during a fight that ensued soon after he discovered she was transgender. He claimed she was still alive when he left the hotel room.

But Laude’s family has long maintained that she was dead when Pemberton vacated the room.

In an interview with MOOVZ, an LGBT social network, prosecutor Virgie Suarez said Pemberton “turned evil” when he realized Jennifer was transgender and that “the evidence” against him “was overwhelming.”

Said Suarez: “Jennifer was killed simply because she’s a transgender. You do not become a lesser person because you are a member of LGBT. We are all equal. We are all human beings.”