Felix Verdejo is officially in police custody.
The 27-year-old lightweight has surrendered to federal authorities Sunday evening in San Juan, Puerto Rico following a weekend-long investigation into the disappearance and murder of Keishla Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz. A warrant was issued for his arrest on charges of kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking resulting in death and killing of an unborn child according to a criminal complaint filed Sunday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com.
The arrest comes on the heels of the body of the 27-year-old Rodriguez being discovered Saturday afternoon in Laguna San Jose. Video evidence showed Rodriguez’s body being dumped into the lagoon after having been beaten and drugged earlier Thursday following an alleged meeting with Verdejo and at least one other accomplice according to the arrest warrant.
Rodriguez was reportedly involved in a years-long affair with Verdejo and one month into a pregnancy with their child. Such development was believed to be a contributing, if not primary factor leading to her gruesome death.
Evidence pointed to Verdejo’s direct involvement through an unnamed cooperating witness, with alleged first-hand knowledge of the abduction and murder of Rodriguez.
According to the complaint, Rodriguez was contacted by Verdejo on April 27, the Tuesday prior to her disappearance two days later. It is alleged that Verdejo—who was made aware by Rodriguez that she was one month pregnant and that he was the father—urged the victim to get an abortion. The investigation suggests that Verdejo then made contact with the witness “and requested to help to terminate the pregnancy of the victim.”
Phone records suggest that Verdejo contacted Rodriguez on Thursday to arrange a meeting near her residence. According to the complaint, Verdejo and the cooperating witness drove in the boxer’s black Dodge Durango SUV, which matches the description of the vehicle caught on the camera of a toll bridge near the lagoon where Rodriguez’s body was discovered. Video surveillance depicts the vehicle arriving at 8:29 a.m. on the day in question parked in the emergency lane of the bridge and departing at approximately 9:31 a.m.
During the meeting, the witness alleges that Rodriguez entered Verdejo’s car at which point the boxer “punched the victim in the face, and she was injected with a syringe filled with substances purchased from a drug point in Llorenes Torres. Verdejo and the witness then restrained the victim’s arms and feet with wire. A [cinder] block was tied to the victim. The witness then took the victim’s keys and boarded the victim’s nearby Kia [Forte].”
Rodriguez was declared missing on April 29, having been last seen in a 2016 Kia Forte. News of her disappearance was first made known by her sister, who took to social media after Rodriguez did not report to work.The vehicle was discovered by local police on April 30 in Canovanas, without indication of a struggle.
Once unconscious and drugged, Rodriguez was then allegedly transported by Verdejo in his Dodge Durango while the witness drove the victim’s car to the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge between San Juan and Carolina, Puerto Rico and spans Laguna San Jose.
The complaint indicates that Verdejo and the witness drove onto the bridge, “where the victim was removed from the vehicle and tossed off the side of the bridge and into the water.” According to the complaint, Verdejo then shot at Rodriguez from the bridge, after which point Rodriguez’s car was later abandoned.
A shell casing was found at the bridge, along with a blood stain.
Rodriguez’s body was found by authorities on Saturday, though her face disfigured to the point where she could not be identified without dental records. A diamond tattoo (Verdejo’s nickname is “Diamante”) on her upper back was recognizable by her family who immediately believed the body to be that of Rodriguez. Forensic experts officially identified Rodriguez as the victim in question Sunday morning.
The case was officially taken over by the FBI, who obtained cell phone records indicating direct communication between Verdejo and Rodrigue on April 28 and April 29. Such records “show at least one phone call and several text messages between them on April 28, 2021 throughout the morning. The records also show at least two phone calls and several text messages between them on April 29, 2021 throughout the morning.
It is detailed in the investigation that Verdejo communicated with the witness and victim via cell phone and drove a car, both of which are classified as interstate and foreign commerce.
“Based on the above facts, the undersigned affiant believes there is probable cause to charge Felix Verdejo Sanchez with violating the following Federal law,” stated FBI Special Agent Lorenzo Villanova Perez. “Title 18 United States Code, Sections 2119(3) (carjacking resulting in death), 1201 (kidnapping resulting in death), 1841 (intentionally killing unborn child).”
Puerto Rico abolished capital punishment in 1929; however, the case now being handled in federal court could potentially put the death penalty on the table. The U.S. Attorney’s Office informed the Court of such penalties carrying the maximum penalty of death, though no such determination has been made as to whether it will be pursued in trying the case.
Verdejo (27-2, 17KOs)—who represented Puerto Rico in the 2012 London Olympics—has not fought since a 9th round knockout loss to Masayoshi Nakatani last December in Las Vegas. The boxer has been promoted throughout his career by Top Rank since turning pro in 2012.
Top Rank issued a statement on Saturday evening expressing the company’s “thoughts and prayers are with Keishla Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz’s family and friends, and with all those in mourning. We are deeply disturbed by the news reports, and we will continue to monitor developments in the case as it progresses.”
The 27-year-old San Juan native was initially approached by authorities in the evening on April 29, hours after island authorities issued an Alerta Rosa (Pink Alert) regarding the disappearance of Rodriguez. Verdejo initially refused to speak without the presence of an attorney, arriving at the headquarters of Cuerpo de Investigacion Criminales (CIC) with his legal team though reportedly not answering any questions according to police sources.
Verdejo’s wife, Eliz Marie Santiago was also questioned at length on Friday and reportedly again over the weekend. Santiago reportedly informed authorities that she was aware of the years along affair between Verdejo and Rodriguez.
Hours before Verdejo surrendered to authorities, an island-wide protest was held on Sunday at the site where Rodriguez’s body was discovered. Her death was a significant part of the movement, though in large part to speak out against the growing and darkly disturbing femicide epidemic in Puerto Rico.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox