27-year-old Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz was a pet groomer in her native San Juan, Puerto Rico. She was also a middle school friend of boxer Felix Verdejo and, later, as his mistress, became pregnant with his child. She also lost her life, allegedly, at the hands of a Verdejo who was desperate to violently remove the complications her pregnancy presented to his marriage and career.
On Sunday night, Verdejo, a 2012 Olympian representing Puerto Rico and a lightweight prospect once pegged as Puerto Rico’s next big thing, surrendered himself to authorities on the island in connection with Ortiz’s kidnapping and murder.
According to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI, the 27-year-old Verdejo and an accomplice, who is now reportedly cooperating with authorities, conspired to kill Ortiz after the fighter asked this unnamed person to “help to terminate the pregnancy.”
Verdejo and his accomplice then arranged a meeting this past Thursday with the victim, who was just one-month pregnant, where the boxer then allegedly punched her in the face and injected her with unnamed substances acquired at a public housing complex in town. Ortiz’s hands and feet were bound with wire and a block was tied to her. She was then transported to the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge, which traverses the San Jose Lagoon, and was thrown into the water. Verdejo then, according to his accomplice, shot at the sinking body with a pistol from the bridge.
Ortiz’s vehicle was disposed of, but recovered a day later.
Ortiz’s body, which was reportedly unrecognizable due to injuries sustained, was identified on Sunday via dental records.
Cell phone data gave a detailed accounting of Verdejo’s and Ortiz’s communications prior to the murder and cell tower triangulation placed all parties in the right time and place to support the FBI claims and the accomplice’s admissions. A security camera on the bridge also reportedly placed Verdejo’s black Durango SUV at the scene of the crime.
Verdejo, nicknamed “El Diamante” in the ring, was brought in for questioning on Saturday as a “person of interest,” but was reportedly uncooperative with police.
The Top Rank-promoted fighter with a pro record of 27-2 with 17 KOs is facing possible charges of kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking resulting in death, and killing an unborn child. These charges would make him eligible for the death penalty in Puerto Rico.
Ortiz had told her family about the pregnancy in the days prior to the murder and had informed her mother of her plans to meet with Verdejo to discuss their future.
“I told her, ‘Be careful,’ because he had already threatened her,” Ortiz’s mother Keila Ortiz told reporters. She said that Verdejo had told her to not have the baby, citing concerns for his career and family.
“For me, he (Felix Verdejo) is the culprit. 100% it’s him. I can point it out in any court,” Ortiz’s mother added. “When she told him that she was pregnant, there he started threatening her. ‘You are going to have an abortion…I am a public figure,’”
“They killed my daughter and my grandson…he is the culprit,” the grieving mother said in a separate interview. “I spoke with Felix and asked him where my daughter was and he told me that he did not know. He was lying to me because I knew my daughter was going to meet him.”
Once regarded as a rising star in boxing, Verdejo’s stock had fallen in recent years. In his most recent bout this past December, he was stopped in nine rounds by Masayoshi Nakatani in a bid for a minor WBO lightweight belt.