Puerto Rican boxer Felix Verdejo turned himself in to federal agents on Sunday night to face federal charges, just hours after authorities identified the body of a dead woman as his 27-year-old pregnant lover, officials said. U.S. prosecutors said late Sunday that Verdejo had been charged with kidnapping and theft, leading to the death and premeditated murder of an unborn child.
A criminal complaint filed by the FBI accuses Verdejo of punching Caisla Rodriguez in the face and injecting her with a syringe full of an unidentified substance purchased at a public apartment complex. It alleges that he then tied her arms and legs with wire and tied a heavy block to her before throwing her off a bridge at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
The complaint states that Verdejo then shot Rodriguez’s body while standing on the bridge.
The complaint says a witness he did not identify helped Verdejo abduct and kill Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was found in a lagoon near the US capital on Saturday, days after she was reported missing. She was identified on Sunday through dental records, a statement from the Puerto Rican Institute of Forensics said.
Earlier, Verdejo and his lawyers declined to comment, and police said the boxer initially did not cooperate and refused to answer questions.
Rodriguez’s family said she was pregnant with Verdejo’s child. Keila Ortiz, the victim’s mother, told reporters that her daughter had called before she disappeared on Thursday and told her that Verdejo was going to her home to see the results of a pregnancy test.
“I told her, ‘Be careful,’ because he’s already threatened her,” Ortiz said. She said Verdejo told his daughter not to give birth to the baby, mentioning his career and family.
Verdejo is married and has a young daughter, but he knows Rodriguez from high school and is in touch with her, her parents said. They said she disappeared after she did not show up for a job in an animal care business.
Verdejo (27-2, 17 knockouts) represented Puerto Rico at the 2012 Olympics, the same year he became a professional boxer competing in the lightweight category. His career was suspended after a motorcycle accident in 2016 that took him to hospital.
The highest-ranking boxer who promoted Verdejo said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned” by the news on Saturday – after Rodriguez’s body was found, but before Verdejo was charged.
“Top Rank’s thoughts and prayers are with Keishla’s family and friends Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz and with all the mourners,” the statement said. “We are deeply concerned about the news coverage and will continue to follow the case as it progresses.”
The case has outraged many in Puerto Rico, where another woman was recently found burned to death after filing a domestic violence complaint, which a judge rejected. A judge of the Supreme Court announced an investigation into this decision.
Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday for a bridge that crosses the lagoon where Rodriguez’s body was found to seek justice for her and other murdered women, and some threw flowers into the water below.