Puerto Rican boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez surrendered on Sunday hours after authorities said they identified the body of a woman who was carrying her child and disappeared last week.
Verdejo, 27, is charged with kidnapping resulting in death, car hijacking resulting in the death and murder of an unborn child, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Puerto Rico on Sunday.
The complaint says the victim, identified as Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz, 27, was reported missing on Thursday. Her body was found in the San Jose Lagoon in San Juan on Saturday, according to the complaint, and she was identified via dental records, according to a statement released by the Institute of Forensic Sciences of Puerto Rico on Sunday.
Verdejo visited himself on Sunday, Lymarie Llovet, spokesperson for the US attorney’s office in Puerto Rico, told NBC News. He appeared in court on Monday morning, where he was ordered to be held without bail.
According to the criminal complaint, a witness to the crimes told the FBI that Verdejo contacted the witness to seek help terminating the pregnancy of Rodríguez Ortiz, who “told Verdejo that she was pregnant with her child on the basis of a pregnancy test “.
Verdejo and Rodríguez Ortiz met near her home and drove separately to meet the witness, according to the complaint. At the meeting place, Rodríguez Ortiz got into Verdejo’s car.
According to the complaint, after a conversation between the two, Verdejo punched Rodríguez Ortiz and then injected him with “a syringe filled with substances bought at a drug point in Llorens Torres”, a large housing project in San Juan.
Verdejo and the witness then tied Rodríguez Ortiz’s arms and feet with wire and tied her to a block, according to the criminal complaint.
The witness, in Rodríguez Ortiz’s car, and Verdejo, in his own car with Rodríguez Ortiz tied up inside, headed for the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge over the San Jose Lagoon, according to the complaint. Verdejo and the witness allegedly threw Rodríguez Ortiz on the side of the bridge.
Verdejo then shot Rodríguez Ortiz with a pistol from the deck above, according to the complaint.
The status of the witness, who has not been identified, is not public information, Llovet said.
Cell phone recordings and surveillance footage from the bridge helped investigators locate Rodríguez Ortiz’s body. His car was found abandoned in Canovanas, about 13 miles from the bridge, on Friday. And police found at least one shell shell on the bridge, according to the criminal complaint.
Rodríguez Ortiz had recently told his family she was pregnant, police interviews revealed, according to the criminal complaint.
Keila Ortiz, the victim’s mother, told reporters her daughter called her before she disappeared on Thursday and told her Verdejo was heading to her home to see the results of a pregnancy test.
“I told him, ‘Be careful,’ because he had already threatened her,” Ortiz said, according to the Associated Press. She said Verdejo told her daughter not to have the baby, mentioning her career and family.
Verdejo is married and has a baby girl, but had known Rodríguez Ortiz from college and had kept in touch with her, her parents said. They reported her missing after she failed to show up for her job at an animal grooming company.
Verdejo represented Puerto Rico at the Olympics in 2012, the same year he became a competing professional boxer in the lightweight division. His career was temporarily hijacked after a motorcycle accident in 2016 that put him in hospital.
The first two charges Verdejo faces carry a maximum death sentence, according to court documents filed on Sunday. But no decision has been made on whether to continue the death penalty, according to the documents.
Murder of an unborn child carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, said Llovet, spokesperson for the United States attorney’s office.
Verdejo’s attorney, Jose F. Irizarry-Perez, said Monday that he and his client had no comment.
Top Rank, a Las Vegas-based boxing promotion company which represents Verdejo, said in a statement that “the thoughts and prayers of the company are with the family and friends of Keishla Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz, and to the all of the Puerto Rican people in this time of mourning. “
“We are deeply disturbed by the information and will continue to monitor the development of the case as it unfolds,” the statement said.
The Associated Press contributed.