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Olympic Boxer Félix Verdejo charged in the murder of pregnant girlfriend

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Picture courtesy of GoFundMe

Gender violence is continuously on the rise in Puerto Rico in a state of emergency, with a recent attack on a woman whose death fueled a protest on the island. 

On May 2, 2021, Olympic boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez, also known as “El Diamante,” was arrested for kidnapping and killing his pregnant girlfriend. Verdejo, 27, who competed for Puerto Rico in the 2012 London Olympic Games, appeared in court Monday morning (May 3), where the judge ordered him held without bail.  

Keishla Marlen Rodríguez body was discovered Saturday, May 1, in the San Jose Lagoon using dental records to identify her, according to CNN, using a forensic report released.

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Picture courtesy NBC News

Rodríguez was two months pregnant when she told her mother, Keila Ortiz Rivera, Thursday morning (April 29), that she was planning to meet with Verdejo to discuss the news. Rivera told El Nuevo Día that she never showed up for work later that day which was unusual for her. 

The married boxer allegedly “had threatened her before to not have the baby, to get an abortion [because] he has his family, he is a boxer [and] a public figure,” Rivera told El Nuevo Día. 

Rivera proceeded to ask her other daughter to call Verdejo, who denied knowing the whereabouts of Rodríguez. Furthermore, Verdejo has been married for nearly a decade to Eliz Marie Santiago Sierra, and they share a young daughter who he posts on Instagram often. 

An unidentified witness said Verdejo contacted him Tuesday, April 27, requesting “his help to terminate Rodríguez’s pregnancy,” according to an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Lorenzo Vilanova Perez. 

Two days later, they meet near her home with Rodríguez driving herself, and Verdejo with the witness. Rodríguez and Verdejo were together in Verdejo’s SUV on Thursday night when Verdejo punched her in the face and injected her “with a syringe filled with substances,” according to the witness. 

They then used wire to bind Rodríguez’s hands and feet, tied a block to her, and drove the two cars to Teodoro Moscoso Bridge in San Juan, where they threw her body into the water. “Verdejo shot at the victim with a pistol from the bridge,” the affidavit states.

The police found Rodríguez’s abandoned Kia on April 30 using cellphone records and surveillance footage from the bridge, NPR reported. Her cause of death has not been released.

Verdejo, turning himself in Sunday, May 2 to authorities, is charged with kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking in death, and intentionally killing an unborn child, according to the U.S. Attorney’s statement.  

The kidnapping and carjacking charges hold a maximum penalty of death with maximum life imprisonment for the intentional killing of an unborn child.

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“For me, he (Félix Verdejo) is the culprit. 100% is him, him. I can point it out in any court. It was him, it was him and it was him,” Rivera told El Nuevo Día. A GoFundMe was created to help with funeral expenses and a memorial service. 

In response to the acceleration of murders and assaults against women, Puerto Rico’s governor declared a state of emergency for gender violence in January. He highlighted what he describes as “the consequences of systematic machismo, inequity, discrimination, lack of education, lack of guidance and above all, lack of action.” 

According to Organization for Economic Cooperative and Development, more than 1 in 4 women in the Caribbean and Latin America experience intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetime, The Miami Herald reports. There were 60 femicides in Puerto Rico last year and a 62 percent increase from 2019, according to the Observatory for Gender Equality.

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