Boxer Verdejo held without bail for alleged slaying of pregnant girlfriend Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz

By John McPhaul

The United States District Court in San Juan ordered professional boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez held without bail during an initial appearance on charges of first degree murder of Keishla Marlen Rodríguez Ortiz, the married boxer’s pregnant girlfriend.

Verdejo’s appearance before federal Magistrate Camille Vélez Rivé began shortly after 10:30 a.m., virtually. Verdejo, 27, is incarcerated in the federal Detention Center in Guaynabo.

Vélez Rivé read the charges against Verdejo and indicated the penalties he faces, including the death penalty and fine of $250,000

Verdejo is facing charges of kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking resulting in death and killing an unborn child.

Attorneys Laura Maldonado and José F. Irizarry represented Verdejo, who turned himself in to authorities Sunday night.

“At the time of filing of this complaint, no decision has been made on whether or not to seek the death penalty in this case,” U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow told a news conference Sunday.

No date for a preliminary hearing was set at Verdejo’s appearance in federal court.

Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Domingo Emmanuelli said Monday in a press conference that the commonwealth agency anticipates pressing charges against Verdejo for murder, as the local investigation continues.

Authorities assemble timeline using cellphone data

According to the accusation, Verdejo called an individual, who authorities identified as a cooperating witness, on April 27 and asked for his help to end Rodríguez Ortiz’s pregnancy.

Authorities were able to use cell phone information to piece together a timetable of the events leading up to the killing, along with the help of the cooperating witness.

Last Thursday, Verdejo called Rodríguez Ortiz, 27, and agreed to meet her near her residence. Verdejo and the cooperating witness drove the boxer’s black Dodge Durango SUV. The woman arrived at the scene in a gray Kia Forte and entered Verdejo’s vehicle.

According to the authorities, after a conversation between Rodríguez Ortiz and Verdejo, the boxer punched the woman in the face and injected her with drugs that he had bought at Luis Llorens Torres housing project in Santurce. Later, Verdejo and the cooperating witness tied the woman’s legs and arms with a cable. They also tied a concrete block to her.

Verdejo and the cooperating witness eventually drove the Durango and the woman’s car across the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge, where they dumped the woman’s body into the San José Lagoon. The witness said the boxer then shot at the body with a handgun from the bridge. Rodríguez Ortiz’s car was abandoned in Canóvanas.

On Friday, the FBI obtained the call information and location of Verdejo’s phone, the number for which was given to the authorities by Rodríguez Ortiz’s relatives.

The telephone information obtained confirmed that there were several calls between the two and the telephones were close to one another on Thursday, in San Juan and the adjacent town of Carolina.

The FBI also analyzed the video taken by the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge’s cameras at 8:29 a.m. on Thursday. At the scene, the police found a bullet casing.

Verdejo, who represented Puerto Rico as a lightweight in London’s 2012 Olympics, turned pro at the end of that year and has a professional boxing record of 27-2, with 17 knockouts.

Verdejo was touted as Puerto Rico’s next great hope in boxing, but after winning a WBO regional lightweight title in San Juan in February 2017, he took his first loss early the following year when he was knocked out by Antonio Lozada Torres at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Verdejo won his next four fights, but was stopped by Masayoshi Nakatani of Japan last December in Las Vegas in another WBO regional title bout.

The slaying of Rodríguez Ortiz comes amid growing concern about gender violence on the island. On Monday, the Senate heard Senate Bill 130, which would make “femicide” and “transfemicide” first-degree murder under the Puerto Rico Penal Code. Authorities recorded 60 killings of women in 2020.

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