The Puerto Rican athlete has been held without bail and could face life imprisonment or the death penalty if convicted.
Lightweight boxer Felix Verdejo–Sanchez was arrested in Puerto Rico by authorities on Monday after the body of a 27-year-old woman was recovered from a lagoon.
According to ESPN, the body was identified as Keishla Rodriguez, who was pregnant at the time of her death. The identification was made on Sunday through dental records, confirmed by Puerto Rico’s Institute of Forensic Science.
The FBI arrested Verdejo and charged him with kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking resulting in death, and intentionally killing an unborn child. Federal Judge Camille Velez ruled the boxer be held without bail.
“This is a death-penalty-eligible case,” she said according to the sports outlet.
The family of the victim shared she was pregnant with Verdejo’s child. Her mother, Keila Ortiz, said she was in contact with her daughter before she disappeared last Thursday and learned the boxer was coming to see a pregnancy test. Although he is married, the report claims Verdejo and Rodriguez had been in contact with one another since middle school.
“I told her, ‘Be careful,’ because he had already threatened her and told her not to have the baby, mentioning his career and family,” Ortiz said.
The FBI is in charge of the investigation and collaborated with the Puerto Rico Police Bureau and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice on the case.
“Puerto Rico mourns Keishla Rodríguez’s death. Our deepest condolences to her family and friends,” said Alexis Torres, the secretary of the Department of Public Safety of Puerto Rico, in a statement Sunday night. “The Puerto Rico Police Bureau and the federal agencies have worked long hours collaborating as a team to solve this cold murder expeditiously.
“Our police officers’ dedication, passion and experience were essential in solving this murder in 48 hours. It demonstrates how the collaboration of efforts is essential for our public safety. We’ll keep on working together and we will seek justice for Keishla,” Torres confirmed.
According to the report, a criminal complaint filed by the FBI claims Verdejo punched Rodriguez in the face and injected her with a syringe filled with an unidentified substance. He then allegedly bound her arms and feet with wire and tied a heavy block to her before throwing her off a bridge.
The complaint continues to detail how Verdejo allegedly shot at Rodriguez’s body as he stood on the bridge. An unidentified witness is listed as assisting Verdejo in the murder.
The 27-year-old boxer has been removed from the Top Rank website. The promotional company has supported Verdejo’s career since 2012. Top Rank released a statement on social media regarding the murder allegations surrounding the fighter.
“Top Rank’s thoughts and prayers are with Keishla Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz’s family and friends, and with all those in mourning,” the statement read. “We are deeply disturbed by the news reports, and we will continue to monitor developments in the case as it progresses.”
According to ESPN, Verdejo established a record of 27-2 with 17 KOs during his career. He also competed in the Olympic games on behalf of Puerto Rico. In 2016, he took a break from the ring following a car accident.
The Washington Post reported the killing had sparked on-the-ground and digital media outcries against the violence against women in the island nation. Rodriguez’s death came days after another woman, Andrea Ruiz Costas, was found partially burned. Costas had filed a gender violence complaint against her partner, which a judge dismissed in March. Her partner was charged with her murder.
Protesters gathered Sunday at Teodoro Moscoso Bridge, demanding gender violence to end. Rodriguez’s sister Bereliz Nichole Rodríguez attended and wore her sister’s clothes, the Post reported.
“I’m a part of her,” she said, according to the news outlet. “I’m even dressed as her. [I want] justice to be made.”
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