By: Sean Crose
“This is a death penalty-eligible case.”
So claimed federal judge Camille Velez on Monday as she ordered that welterweight boxer Felix Verdejo be held without bail in the kidnapping and death of Keishla Rodriguez Ortiz and her unborn child. ESPN reports that “the U.S. government has 30 days to present the case to a federal grand jury; meanwhile, a date for Verdejo’s next hearing has yet to be announced.” The charge of Verdejo killing an unborn child falls under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004. The trial will be held in Puerto Rico, where the crimes occurred.
Verdejo reportedly went with a now cooperating witness to meet Ortiz on Thursday, where she planned to tell him she was pregnant with his child. After Ortiz got into Verdejo’s Dodge Durango, he punched her, and injected her with a needle. He and the witness then held Ortiz down by wrapping wire around her hands and feet. Verdejo then reportedly tied a block to Ortiz before driving to a bridge where she would be dropped into the water below.
The witness was said to have driven Ortiz’ car to the sport where Ortiz would be disposed of. As a final act, Verdejo reportedly shot at Ortiz with a handgun after dumping her off the bridge. The act complete, Verdejo and the witness drove off, leaving Ortiz’ vehicle near the crime scene. Ortiz’ body was recovered from a San Juan area lagoon on Saturday. NBC is reporting that the needle used in the criminal act contained a drug from San Juan’s Llorens Torres project. The network is also reporting that Lymarie Llovet, of the US District Attorney’s Puerto Rican office, indicated “the status of the witness, who has not been identified, is not public information.”
According to ESPN, the case will be prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney John Gottfried. Verdejo, meanwhile, will be represented by Laura Maldonado-Rodriguez and Jose F. Irizarry-Perez. Verdejo is reportedly married and has a child with social media figure Eliz Marie Santiago Sierra. He is said to have known Ortiz since both were in junior high school. Verdejo is 27, as was Ortiz at the time of her death. Verdejo fights under the Top Rank Promotions banner, though as of Monday, he can’t be found on their fighter list, which indicates the outlet may be trying to distance itself from the 27-2 welterweight. On Saturday, Top Rank released a statement on social media in relation to death of Ortiz:
“Top Rank’s thoughts and prayers,” it stated, “are with Keishla Marlen Rodríguez Ortiz’s family and friends, and with all those in mourning. We are deeply disturbed by the news reports and we will continue to monitor developments in the case as it progresses.”