Felix Verdejo made his first appearance before the federal court on Monday, where he was denied bail and ordered to remain in prison.
The Puerto Rican boxer surrendered to FBI agents Sunday evening surrounding charges of kidnapping, carjacking and killing an unborn child in relation to the abduction and murder of Keishla Rodriguez Ortiz. Verdejo appeared before a federal magistrate judge via video conference call Monday morning.
The severity of the charges left the court to disallow Verdejo the opportunity to be freed from prison as prosecutors have been assigned to make their case.
“Due to the nature of the charges and circumstances surrounding this case, Sr. Verdejo, you will remain imprisoned without bail,” instructed federal magistrate judge Camille Vélez Rivé during the hearing which was held virtually on Monday.
Verdejo is being represented by attorney José Fernando Izquierdo Pérez, who was hired by the boxer’s mother. He was not provided with the opportunity to enter a plea during the session, with such determination to be made during a hearing later in the case.
As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, the 27-year-old Verdejo has been charged with carjacking resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death and the killing of an unborn child. All three charges have been filed in a federal court, which carry the maximum penalty of death as all parties were informed Sunday evening upon Verdejo’s arrest.
Monday’s hearing also revealed that the court as assigned an attorney with expertise in capital punishment cases to gather evidence and present before a grand jury.
Rodriguez was declared missing on April 29, with her family informing authorities—and the public—that her last movements were to inform Verdejo that she was one month pregnant with their child. Officials in Puerto Rico issued an Alerta Rosa (Pink Alert), activated in the cases of women women 18 years of age and older whose disappearances are linked to domestic violence, hate crimes or crimes of a sexual nature. The law was passed last October due to the disturbingly growing trend of femicide on the island.
Verdejo was initially questioned last Thursday evening regarding the disappearance of Rodriguez, with whom it was revealed the boxer had known since middle school and was having a years-long affair. The boxer refused to answer questions with the presence of an attorney, accompanied by his legal team as he met with authorities on Friday in Hato Rey, though reportedly still refusing to answer questions specific to the case.
The investigation was taken over by the FBI, with agents filing charges with the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.
Verdejo’s wife, Eliz Marie Santiago was also questioned by local authorities on Friday and again by investigators over the weekend. Santiago confessed to having knowledge of the affair. The arrest complaint does not indicate whether she had any involvement or knowledge of the crimes in question.
The search for Rodriguez was moved from rescue to recovery on Saturday, after which her body was discovered in Laguna San Jose. Toll booth cameras provided disturbing footage of the 27-year-old woman being removed from a Dodge Durango SUV and thrown over the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge into the lagoon.
Verdejo was advanced from person of interest to suspect after a witness alleging first-hand knowledge informed authorities of his direct involvement.
The official arrest complaint filed with the federal court alleged that Verdejo met with Rodriguez on April 29—two days after allegedly demanding that she undergo an abortion upon learning of her pregnancy. According to the complaint, Verdejo had Rodriguez enter his vehicle, at which point he punched her in the face and injected her with a syringe “substances purchased from a drug point in Llorenes Torres.” From there, Verdejo drove his vehicle while the unnamed witness drove Rodriguez’s car, eventually leading to their depositing the body into the lagoon.
The case of Rodriguez’s murder sparked an island wide protest on Sunday, denouncing violence against women.
The disturbing events come more than four months after Verdejo’s most recent ring appearance, a 9th round knockout loss to Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani last December in Las Vegas. The defeat ended a four-fight win streak for Verdejo, who represented Puerto Rico in the 2012 London Olympics and who has fought under the Top Rank banner since turning pro in Dec. 2012.
Verdejo is now remanded to a federal detention center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.