A Puerto Rican jury found former professional boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez guilty of ki*dnapping and ki*lling a pregnant woman who went missing on April 29, 2021, not long after her family said she was supposed to meet the former Olympic boxer to tell him she was pregnant with his child.
If Keishla Rodríguez, 27, didn’t show up to work, her family called the police to say she was missing. After two days, her body was found in a lagoon in San Juan by the police.
The boxer, 30, was on trial at the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico for almost two months. The jury was made up of three women and nine men. Verdejo was also found guilty of ki*lling a baby that wasn’t yet born. Even though they met for three days, the jury could not agree on a verdict for a charge of carjacking that ki*lled someone and another charge of having a weapon during a violent crime.
When The Washington Post called Gabriela Cintrón, one of Verdejo’s lawyers, on Friday evening, she declined to say anything.
The prosecution was happy that Verdejo was found guilty.
In a news release, U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow said, “We stand firmly with the family of Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz and all those in the community who sought justice for this senseless, cruel, and heinous act of premeditated and cold-blooded violence against Keishla and her unborn child.”
Court records show that Verdejo will be sentenced on November 3. For the four felonies he was first charged with, the worst sentence that could happen to him was life in prison.
From inside the courtroom, the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día reported that Verdejo didn’t say a word as the jury’s verdict was read, while Rodríguez’s family sobbed and hugged.
Outside of court, Rodríguez’s father, Tony Rodríguez, told Telemundo Puerto Rico, “May he think about what he did to my daughter for the rest of his life.”
Telemundo Puerto Rico reported that Verdejo’s defence used nine witnesses, including some of his ex-partners, ex-coach, and sister, who said he was a peaceful and “excellent” person.
Verdejo was arrested by the FBI and charged on May 2, 2021, even though he had said he wasn’t guilty. Police say the boxer hit Rodríguez, who was almost two months pregnant, with drugs and then threw her off a bridge. A forensic pathologist told the court that Rodríguez drowned after being injected with fentanyl and xylazine, which is a drug used to sedate animals.
There were protests in Puerto Rico and a lot of posts on social media condemning violence against women after Rodríguez’s case. The problem was so bad on the island that in January 2021, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi (D) declared a state of emergency over it. A group in Puerto Rico called the Observatory of Gender Equality says that 53 women and girls were ki*lled in 2021 because of their gender. The group had seen 60 of these kinds of dea*ths the previous year.
Rodríguez and Verdejo had been in touch since middle school, when they lived together with another woman, her parents told El Nuevo Día. Her mother, Keila Ortiz Rivera, says she owned two cats and two dogs and worked at a business that groomed pets. Because she loved animals so much, she would often rescue strays and leave food for them when she wasn’t at work.
El Nuevo Día reported that Luis Antonio Cádiz Martínez, who Verdejo was accused of hiring to help with the crime, spoke in court and described how the two plans came together. It was one of the most memorable parts of the trial. Last year, Martínez admitted that he stole a car that ki*lled someone and an unborn child. The judge will decide on his sentence in August.
A report from El Nuevo Día said that Cádiz Martínez said they planned to use wire to restrain Rodríguez on the night of April 28, 2021. He also said that they would use a nearby cement block to weigh down the body in the water.
And Cádiz Martínez told the court that the ex-boxer picked him up early the next day and drove to Rodríguez’s house. Rodríguez, who arrived at the meeting point in her Kia Forte, got inside Verdejo’s car and showed him her positive pregnancy test, Cádiz Martínez said in court.
It was Cádiz Martínez who said he grabbed her by the hair and punched her in the jaw. Then, Cádiz Martínez said, Verdejo used a syringe to give the woman drugs. After that, court records show that both men drove to the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge in different cars.
Both men tied Rodríguez’s limbs to the block of cement and threw her body over the bridge, according to court documents.
Verdejo, who turned pro in 2012, held a record of 27 wins and two losses with 17 knockouts, ESPN reported. Verdejo also played for Puerto Rico in the Olympics in 2012.