Félix Verdejo Sánchez, who competed for Puerto Rico in the 2012 Olympics, was sentenced to life in prison for killing his pregnant girlfriend in 2021
Former Olympic boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez was sentenced to life in prison Friday for the kidnapping and murder of his pregnant girlfriend in Puerto Rico, authorities announced.
The sentencing handed down by a federal judge comes more than two years after the April 2021 killing of 27-year-old Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz and her unborn baby, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico said in a news release.
In July, a jury consisting of three men and nine women found the 30-year-old Verdejo, who competed for Puerto Rico in the 2012 Olympic Games, guilty of kidnapping resulting in death and causing the death of an unborn child, according to The Washington Post. The jury reportedly could not reach a verdict on the other two charges against him, including carjacking resulting in death and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
According to local newspaper El Nuevo Dia, which cites a defense motion, Verdejo’s attorney has filed an appeal in the federal case.
During the trial, Luis Antonio Cádiz-Martínez, who was also charged in the case, testified Verdejo pressured Rodríguez Ortiz into getting an abortion before she was killed, according to the Associated Press.
Cádiz-Martínez pleaded guilty last year to carjacking resulting in death and killing an unborn child, per multiple reports. He is still awaiting sentencing.
Verdejo, who was married, reportedly "had threatened her before to not have the baby, to get an abortion [because] he has his family, he is a boxer [and] a public figure," Rodríguez's mother, Keila Ortiz Rivera, told El Nuevo Día in Spanish at the time.
Prosecutors said in the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s release that on the morning of April 29, 2021, the two men lured Rodríguez Ortiz into Verdejo’s Dodge Durango. Verdejo then punched Rodríguez Ortiz and injected her with drugs before tying her with metal wire to a cement block.
Verdejo then drove to the Teodoro Moscoso bridge, and, with Cadiz-Martínez’s help, threw Rodríguez Ortiz into the San José Lagoon in San Juan. “[Verdejo] later jumped into the lagoon in order to finish murdering both victims,” the release states.
According to the AP, Cádiz-Martínez later made an anonymous 911 call and provided the location of Ortiz Rodríguez’s body.
Rodríguez Ortiz’s body was recovered on May 1, 2021 in the lagoon and Verdejo surrendered to authorities shortly after.
The AP reports that an autopsy determined Rodríguez Ortiz had fentanyl and xylazine, a sedative used for animals including horses, in her system. A pathologist testified that Rodríguez Ortiz was still alive when she was thrown into the lagoon, per NBC News.
"May he live the rest of his life thinking about everything he did to my daughter," Rodríguez's father, José Antonio Rodríguez, said while speaking with reporters after the July verdict, per Telemundo Puerto Rico.
Rodríguez Ortiz's death sparked protests across the island over the treatment of women and led Gov. Pedro Pierluisi to declare a state of emergency for gender violence in Puerto Rico, drawing attention to what he described as "the consequences of systematic machismo, inequity, discrimination, lack of education, lack of guidance and above all, lack of action."
“This sentence should serve as a lesson for others,” Puerto Rico Police Commissioner Antonio López said, per the AP. “It doesn’t matter how much fame, money or power you think you have. If you break the law, you will have to respond.”
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.
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