Puerto Rican boxer Felix Verdejo pleads NOT guilty in murder of pregnant Keishla Rodriguez but didn't seek bail
Luis Antonio Cadiz Martinez, a second person indicted in the killing, also pleaded not guilty
GUAYNABO, PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rican boxer Felix Verdejo pleaded not guilty to federal charges linking him to the killing of Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz, whose family said she was pregnant with his child at the time of her death. Verdejo has allegedly killed his 27-year-old pregnant girlfriend and dumping her unconscious body in a lagoon.
Appearing virtually in a federal court hearing for the second time from the federal jail in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, on May 11 morning, Verdejo has pleaded not guilty. The arraignment was conducted by Judge Camille Velez Rive.
The Puerto Rican boxer requested through his lawyers that the court register a declaration of "not guilty" to one count of carjacking resulting in death, one count of kidnapping resulting in death, one count of killing an unborn child and a count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
According to local reports, Verdejo is represented by federal legal aid attorney Laura Maldonado Rodriguez and private attorney Jose Irizarry Perez and David Ruhnke, appointed by the court as an expert attorney in death penalty cases. Prosecutor Jonathan Gottfried, director of the Violent Crimes Division of the federal prosecutor’s office in Puerto Rico, was on behalf of the Public Ministry.
It must be noted that while Verdejo pleaded not guilty, he did not seek bail. According to reports, the defense did not request bail. At the same time, the federal prosecutor requested that Verdejo remains in prison. Judge Velez Rive eventually ordered Verdejo to remain in jail until the trial against him is held.
Accomplice pleads 'not guilty'
Luis Antonio Cadiz Martinez, a second person indicted in Rodríguez Ortiz's killing, also pleaded not guilty on Tuesday afternoon. He was charged with one count of carjacking resulting in death, one count of kidnapping resulting in death and one count of killing an unborn child. Federal prosecutor W Stephen Muldrow reportedly announced the involvement of Luis Antonio Cádiz-Martínez, who is cooperating with the FBI. He is also being held without bail until his trial.
Though the death penalty is illegal in Puerto Rico, both men could face federal death penalty charges because the indictment included special findings, including "Verdejo Sánchez procured the commission of the offense by payment, or promise of payment" and "Cádiz-Martínez committed the offense as consideration for the receipt, or in the expectation of the receipt, of anything of pecuniary value," among other factors, reported NBC.
What happened that day?
According to an arrest affidavit, Verdejo and Martínez reportedly met the victim in his SUV on April 29, 2021. When she got in the car, Verdejo allegedly punched Rodriguez in the face, fracturing her jaw, and proceeded to inject her with a sedative, the affidavit said.
Verdejo and the witness then reportedly tied her arms and feet with wire before driving to a nearby bridge, investigators said. As per the affidavit, they allegedly tied a brick onto her and threw her off the bridge, folVerdejo also shot at her from the bridge.
One-month pregnant Rodríguez Ortiz, unfortunately, met a tragic death. According to the results of the autopsy conducted by the Institute of Forensic Sciences, she reportedly died of asphyxia by immersion. The autopsy also revealed that she had a fractured jaw, was injected with a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, and was presumably alive when thrown off the bridge.
"Keishla Rodríguez-Ortiz was taken from a family that loved her, and she and her child were denied the most fundamental right to life, and the joy of knowing what that life could have been," Muldrow reportedly said.