Puerto Rican boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez turned himself in Sunday hours after authorities announced they had identified the body of a woman carrying her child and disappeared last week.
Verdejo, 27, is charged with kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking with death and the murder of an unborn child, according to a criminal lawsuit filed in federal court in Puerto Rico Sunday.
The complainant said the victim, identified as Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz, 27, was reported missing Thursday. Her body was recovered in the San Jose Lagoon in San Juan on Saturday, the complaint said, and she was identified via dental registration, according to a statement released by the Puerto Rico Institute of Forensic Science on Sunday.
Verdejo surrendered on Sunday, Lymarie Llovet, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney̵
Criminal complaint said a witness to the crimes told the FBI that Verdejo contacted the witness and asked for help in terminating the pregnancy of Rodríguez Ortiz, who had “told Verdejo that she was pregnant with her child based on a pregnancy test.”
Verdejo and Rodríguez Ortiz met near her home and drove separately to meet the witness, the complaint said. When they arrived at the venue, Rodríguez Ortiz got into Verdejo’s car.
The complainant said that after a conversation between the couple, Verdejo beat Rodríguez Ortiz and then injected her with “a syringe filled with drugs bought from a drugstore in Llorens Torres”, a large housing project in San Juan.
Verdejo and the witness then tied Rodríguez Ortiz’s arms and feet with wire and tied her to a block, the criminal complaint said.
The witness in Rodríguez Ortiz’s car and Verdejo in his own car with Rodríguez Ortiz tied inside drove towards the Teodoro Moscoso bridge over the San Jose Lagoon. Verdejo and the witness allegedly threw Rodríguez Ortiz from the side of the bridge.
Verdejo then shot Rodríguez Ortiz with a pistol from the bridge above, according to the complaint.
The status of the witness, which has not been identified, is not public information, Llovet said.
Mobile phone records and surveillance footage from the bridge helped investigators find Rodríguez Ortiz’s body. Her car was found abandoned in Canovanas, about 21km from the bridge, on Friday. And police found at least one shell house on the bridge, according to the criminal complaint.
Rodríguez Ortiz had recently told her family she was pregnant, police reports revealed, according to the criminal complaint.
Keila Ortiz, the victim’s mother, told reporters that her daughter had called her before she disappeared Thursday, telling her Verdejo was going to go to her home to see the results of a pregnancy test.
“I told her, ‘Be careful,’ because he had already threatened her,” Ortiz was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. She said Verdejo had asked his daughter not to have the baby, mentioning his career and family.
Verdejo is married and has a young daughter, but had known Rodríguez Ortiz since middle school and kept in touch with her, her parents said. They reported her missing after she did not show up for her job at a pet care company.
Verdejo represented Puerto Rico at the Olympics in 2012, the same year he became a professional boxer competing in the lightweight division. His career was temporarily tracked after a motorcycle accident in 2016 that put him in the hospital.
The first two charges Verdejo faces carry a maximum death penalty, according to court documents filed Sunday. But no decision had been made to prosecute the death penalty, the documents said.
Killing an unborn child carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, said Llovet, the U.S. attorney’s office woman.
Verdejo’s attorney, Jose F. Irizarry-Perez, said Monday that he and his client had no comment.
Top Rank, a Las Vegas-based boxing advertising agency representing Verdejo, said in a statement that the company’s “thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Keishla Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz and with the entire Puerto Rican people in this time of grief. . “
“We are deeply concerned about the news reports and will continue to monitor the progress of the case as it progresses,” the statement said.
The case has upset many in Puerto Rico, where another woman was recently found burned to death after she filed a complaint of domestic violence, which a judge dismissed. A Supreme Court judge has announced an inquiry into this decision.
Hundreds of people gathered Sunday at a bridge crossing the lagoon where Rodríguez’s body was found to demand justice for her and other slain women, with some throwing flowers into the water below.
Gov. Pedro R. Pierluisi said in a statement on Sunday: “There should be no doubt that we are in a state of emergency due to gender-based violence.”
“The pain, anger and indignation we feel every time we witness a crime against sexual violence must be kept alive within us so that we do not rest on our responsibility to protect, prevent and eliminate this evil and to do justice to it. all the victims, “Pierluisi said.” We are better than this and we must prove it. “