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Olympic Boxer Found Guilty of Killing Pregnant Girlfriend, Unborn Child
"Justice was served for my daughter and my grandson," said Keila Ortiz, Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz’s mother.
Puerto Rican Olympic boxer Felix Verdejo-Sánchez has been convicted in the abduction and murder of his pregnant girlfriend more than two years ago, according to federal prosecutors.
A federal jury in San Juan found Verdejo-Sánchez guilty in the 2021 murders of Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz and her unborn child, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico announced on Friday. He now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for each conviction of kidnapping that resulted in death.
Verdejo-Sánchez, 30, lured Ortiz to his Dodge Durango on April 29, 2021, where he punched her, injected her with drugs and tied her with metal wire to a cement block, according to an arrest affidavit previously obtained by Oxygen.com.
Verdejo Sánchez drove Ortiz to the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge, and with the help of co-defendant Luis Antonio Cádiz-Martínez, tossed Ortiz into the San José Lagoon. The Olympic boxer “later jumped into the lagoon in order to finish murdering both victims,” federal prosecutors said.
The pregnant pet groomer’s body was discovered the following day. She was still wearing her work scrubs, according to NBC News. Verdejo-Sánchez was arrested shortly thereafter and charged with their kidnapping, carjacking and killing Ortiz and her unborn child. Surveillance footage and cell phone records linked him to the murders, according to charging documents.
An autopsy later revealed that fentanyl and xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, were in Ortiz’s system at the time of her death. At trial, a pathologist told the case’s federal jury that Ortiz was still alive when she was thrown into lagoon waters.
“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,” United States Attorney William Stephen Muldrow said following Verdejo-Sánchez’s sentencing.
Ortiz’s family celebrated the verdict outside the courtroom on Friday,
"Justice was served for my daughter and my grandson," Keila Ortiz, Rodríguez Ortiz’s mother, said after the ruling was handed down, Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día reported.
Authorities say Verdejo-Sanchez carried out his girlfriend’s killing to “terminate” her pregnancy. Ortiz disclosed she was pregnant to loved ones days before her death, according to law enforcement.
Cádiz-Martínez, who served as a star witness for the prosecution, previously pleaded guilty to charges in connection with Ortiz’s death. He testified that the Olympic boxer pressured his girlfriend to get an abortion after learning she was pregnant.
Oxygen.com has reached out to Verdejo-Sánchez’s legal team for comment. His sentencing is scheduled for November 3.
"On November 3, I need you to tell me what you got out of all this. What did you expect? What was it worth to you? I have so much to tell you,” Ortiz’s sister, Bereliz, wrote in a social media post, San Juan television station WKAQ-TV reported.
Ortiz’s femicide — and Verdejo-Sánchez’s high-profile arrest — drew attention to Puerto Rico’s rising gender violence rates in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which wrought havoc on the island in 2017. Today, Puerto Rico has one of the highest domestic violence rates in the world. Ortiz’s murder came at a time when many Puerto Ricans were already advocating the government to reform gender violence laws.
Verdejo-Sánchez represented Puerto Rico in the lightweight category at the 2012 Olympics in London.