A guilty plea has been entered by the co-defendant in the ongoing criminal case involving disgraced former boxer Felix Verdejo.
Luis Antonio Cadiz-Martinez pled guilty on two charges related to the murder of Keishla Marlen Rodriguez and her unborn child during a court hearing on Monday in the U.S. Federal Court for the District of Puerto Rico in Hato Rey. Cadiz-Martinez confessed to his role in the carjacking resulting in death and the killing of an unborn child in the abduction and murder of Verdejo’s former lover Keishla Marlen Rodriguez last April.
Per the terms of a months-long negotiation in exchange for a guilty plea, the federal prosecutor’s office is expected to recommend that Cadiz-Martinez serve between 30 years and life during a sentence hearing currently scheduled for next May 1. It will mark the two-year anniversary of the day that Rodriguez’s body was discovered in Laguna San Jose, after which time Verdejo and Cadiz-Martinez were arrested and charged in her murder.
The remaining charge of kidnapping resulting in death against Cadiz-Martinez was vacated, in light of his guilty plea on carjacking resulting in death and the death of an unborn child.
Despite justice being served on Monday, it did not ease the pain for Rodriguez’s family as they continue to mourn her loss and struggle to come to grips with her senseless murder.
“They are murderers,” Kelia Ortiz, Rodriguez’s mother, told reporters following Cadiz-Martinez’s guilty plea. “All those involved in my daughter's case. They are all murderers. What my ears heard now... murderers.”
Verdejo still faces all three charges surrounding the gruesome death of Rodriguez. As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, Verdejo’s trial remains set for next February 27. He faces up to 99 years in prison on each individual charge if found guilty, the maximum allowable punishment under P.R. law after the government removed the possibility of pursuing as a death penalty case on January 31.
There is also an additional count of discharging a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime. The offense carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, though only in conjunction with a guilty verdict returned in any of the other charges. He will remain in prison as his newly formed legal team reviews the extensive discovery and interview all identified witnesses, which the prosecution estimates as “between 10-15” but only half of which are expected to testify.
The government will have until December to oppose any motions, with the defense permitted to reply by no later than December 16.
The first conference date of 2023 will take place January 14, followed by the final pre-trial conference hearing on February 10.
Verdejo has not boxed since December 2020. The 2012 Puerto Rico Olympian and former lightweight contender was knocked out in the ninth round by Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani, having scored two early knockdowns before falling apart late in suffering the stoppage in their ESPN-televised bout from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
San Juan’s Verdejo (27-2, 17KOs) has remained in prison since last May 2, when he surrendered to authorities following a three-day search for Rodriguez who was first reported missing by family members on April 29. A rescue mission was changed to a recovery mission once preliminary evidence suggested she was no longer alive. Those fears were realized on May 1, when she was pulled from Laguna San Jose in Carolina, Puerto Rico.
A detailed investigation report—aided by what reports indicate as a cooperating witness with first-hand knowledge of the case—revealed that Verdejo and Cádiz-Martinez both intentionally killed Rodriguez and “committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner in that it involved serious physical abuse to the victim.” Verdejo entered a plea of not guilty to all charges last May 11.
With the matter no longer a capital punishment case, Verdejo will serve in a stateside-based prison if found guilty of any or all charges.
A shrine remains in place along the bridge in memory of Rodriguez.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox