Verdejo pleads not guilty in Keishla Rodríguez slaying

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Professional boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez, who was indicted by a grand jury for the murder of 27-year-old Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz, pleaded “not guilty” on Tuesday to the four charges filed against him in a second federal arraignment at the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico.

The not guilty plea was made during a virtual court hearing held at the Federal Detention Center in Guaynabo and conducted by Magistrate Camille Vélez Rive.

Verdejo, 27, was assisted by an English interpreter during the hearing and declared to the federal judge that he was capable of understanding the process.

He also acknowledged to Vélez Rive that he was not under any psychiatric treatment.

When the judge asked if the defense had anything to prove as the Office of Pretrial Services recommended not posting bail given that Verdejo was being considered by U.S. District Attorney Jonathan Gottfried as “a threat to the community,” federal legal aid attorney Laura Maldonado Rodríguez said “we have nothing to offer at this time.”

Aside from Maldonado Rodríguez, Verdejo is also being represented by private attorneys José Irizarry Pérez and David Runhke, who was appointed by the court as an expert attorney in death penalty cases.

Verdejo, a former Olympian who had compiled a record of 28-2 with 17 knockouts in eight years as a professional prizefighter, mostly in the lightweight (135 pounds) division, has been detained since May 2 when he turned himself in to federal authorities amid criminal complaints filed by the federal court.

On May 6, Verdejo, along with alleged accomplice Luis Antonio Cadiz -- who also entered a plea of not guilty on Tuesday -- were facing charges of carjacking resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, the killing of an unborn child and the using and carrying a firearm during a violent crime.

According to the indictment, Verdejo made arrangements with Rodríguez Ortiz on Thursday, April 29 to discuss a positive pregnancy test, but he sought the collaboration of Cádiz beforehand and purchased drugs at Luis Lloréns Torres public housing complex in San Juan.

When Rodríguez Ortiz, who had been in a relationship with Verdejo for more than 11 years, got inside his black Dodge van, she was punched in the jaw, drugged, and her hands and feet were tied with cables, the indictment alleges.

The two men then tied a concrete block to the woman and threw her body into the San José Lagoon close to Teodoro Moscoso Bridge, according to the indictment. In addition, Verdejo fired at least one shot at Rodríguez Ortiz once she was in the water.

The body was found floating in the lagoon by Puerto Rico Police Bureau agents on Saturday, May 1.

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