Puerto Rican boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez turned himself in to law enforcement officials on the island on Sunday evening and is charged with the murder of a pregnant woman whose body washed up in a lagoon on Saturday, authorities said.
According to a federal complaint, Mr. Verdejo, a lightweight boxer who represented Puerto Rico at the 2012 London Olympics, is accused of beating the woman, injecting her with ‘substances’, tying her body to a block and throwing her off a bridge into the water.
The woman, Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz, disappeared on Friday. Her body was found on Saturday and identified by dental records, the Institute of Forensic Science in Puerto Rico said Sunday. Police said in one a missing person’s report that Ms. Rodríguez Ortiz had last spoken to her mother on Thursday around 7 a.m. local time.
Authorities quickly identified Mr Verdejo, 27, as a person of interest in Ms Rodríguez Ortiz’s disappearance. According to reports in the Puerto Rican news media, he was seen leaving San Juan Criminal Investigation Corps headquarters on Friday. Detective Corps Captain Luis Díaz Muñoz told the newspaper El Nuevo Día that Mr. Verdejo did not collaborate with researchers.
According to the federal criminal complaint, Mr. Verdejo charged with kidnapping that resulted in death, carjacking that resulted in death and the killing of an unborn child. The charges carry a maximum death penalty, although, according to federal prosecutors, no decision has been made on whether or not to prosecute that sentence.
In the complaint, the Federal Bureau of Investigation relied on information from a witness who described the service as a person “with first-hand personal knowledge” of what happened.
According to this report, Mr Verdejo contacted the witness “and asked for his help to terminate the pregnancy,” the complaint said. The witness cooperated.
Mr Verdejo and Ms Rodríguez Ortiz met on Thursday evening in Mr Verdejo’s black Durango SUV. At one point, Mr Verdejo hit her in the face “and she was injected with a syringe filled with substances”, which were not specified in the complaint. Then Mr. Verdejo and the witness tied her hands and feet with wire. They also tied her up in a block, according to the complaint, and loaded her body into the vehicle she had met Mr. Verdejo with.
The witness and Mr. Verdejo both drove vehicles on the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge, which spans the San Jose lagoon, near San Juan. According to the complaint, they threw Mrs. Rodríguez Ortiz into the water. Then, according to the complaint, Mr. Verdejo fired a gun at her from the bridge.
The two men left Mrs. Rodríguez Ortiz’s vehicle, which was found a day later. According to the complaint, law enforcement officials were able to use cell phone data to find out where Ms. Rodríguez Ortiz had traveled to and who she had spoken to before disappearing.
The information from Ms. Rodríguez Ortiz’s phone led law enforcement officials to Mr. Verdejo and the bridge, the complaint said. Surveillance video from the bridge shows a dark SUV resembling Mr Verdejo’s parking lot on the bridge’s hard shoulder. It also shows “visible movement of at least one person to the side of the vehicle.”
According to an FBI spokeswoman, Mr. Verdejo was in custody Sunday night and is expected to appear in court on Monday.
It was not immediately clear on Sunday evening whether Mr. Verdejo had a lawyer. He was not available for comment.
Mr Verdejo’s boxing record is 27-2, with 17 knockouts, according to Top Rank, a boxing promotion company in Las Vegas. Top Rank, who cites Mr Verdejo as one of its fighters, did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
“Top Rank’s thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Keishla Marlen Rodríguez Ortiz, and with the people of Puerto Rico in this moment of mourning,” the company says said in a statement on Saturday night. “We are deeply troubled by the news and will continue to monitor the case as it progresses.”
Mrs. Rodríguez Ortiz’s mother, Keila Ortiz Rivera, told me El Nuevo Día that when she last spoke to her daughter on Thursday morning, Mrs. Rodríguez Ortiz told her that Mr. Verdejo was on her way to meet her to see the results of a pregnancy test she had taken.
“I told her ‘Be careful’ because he threatened her not to have the baby, that he had his family, that he is a boxer, that he is a public figure,” Ms. Ortiz Rivera told El Nuevo Día.
Ms. Ortiz Rivera said she received a call from her other daughter at about 9:30 am, telling her that Ms. Rodríguez’s boss had called Ortiz to say she had not turned up for work.
“For me that was super strange because she is very responsible for her job,” said Ms. Ortiz Rivera.
Mrs. Ortiz Rivera said she called Mr. Verdejo to ask about her daughter, and he said he didn’t know where she was.
“You’re lying to me – that’s the first lie,” Ortiz Rivera recalled telling him. “She talked to me a while ago and told me you went to her house when you finished training.”