Ex-Olympic boxer found guilty on charges tied to pregnant lover’s death

Posted at 12:49 PM, July 31, 2023

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Former Puerto Rican boxer Félix Verdejo was found guilty Friday on two charges related to the death of his 27-year-old pregnant lover.

The verdict came after a 25-week trial in which the jury heard gruesome details about the April 2021 killing of Keishla Rodríguez that shocked the U.S. territory.

Felix Verdejo poses after his weigh-in at Madison Square Garden in New York

FILE – Puerto Rican boxer Felix Verdejo poses after his weigh-in at Madison Square Garden in New York, June 10, 2016. A jury on Friday, July 28, 2023, found Verdejo guilty on two of four charges in the murder of Kelshla Rodriguez. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

The jury convicted Verdejo on the charge of kidnapping that leads to a death and one count of causing the death of an unborn child. The 12 jurors could not reach unanimous verdicts on the charge of intercepting and stealing vehicle with the consequence of causing a death or the charge of carrying a weapon to commit a violent crime.

U.S. District Judge Pedro Delgado Hernandez set a Nov. 3 sentencing session, at which Verdejo could face a penalty of up to life in prison.

Federal prosecutors relied on the testimony of more than 30 people, including key witness Luis Antonio Cádiz, a friend of Verdejo who also was charged in the case. He pleaded guilty last year after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors but hasn’t been sentenced.

Cádiz testified that Verdejo had pressured Rodríguez to get an abortion before she was killed.

He testified that the day of the killing, Verdejo punched Rodríguez and injected her with a substance that Cádiz believed to be heroin before they both tied her limbs to a cement block and threw her off a busy bridge in broad daylight.

A pathologist testified that Rodríguez, 27, was still alive when she was thrown into the lagoon below the bridge.

Cádiz said he made an anonymous 911 call days later to provide the location of Rodríguez’s body.

An autopsy determined Rodríguez had fentanyl and xylazine, a sedative used for horses and other animals, in her system.

Her death outraged many in Puerto Rico who keep demanding that authorities do a better job of protecting domestic violence victims.

Verdejo represented Puerto Rico at the 2012 Olympics and became a professional boxer that year. He finished his career in the lightweight division with a 27-2 record, with 17 knockouts.