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Puerto Rican professional boxer Felix Verdejo-Sanchez has turned himself in to the FBI after authorities alleged that he kidnapped his extramarital lover and dumped her body off a bridge upon learning that she was pregnant.
Verdejo surrendered to authorities in Puerto Rico late Sunday, one day after the body of Keishla Rodriguez, 27, washed up in a lagoon in the U.S. territory. Verdejo is married and has a young child but he was also romantically involved with Rodriguez, according to her family.
Verdejo was arrested late Sunday on charges of kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking resulting in death and intentionally killing an unborn child, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.
A criminal complaint filed by the FBI alleges that Verdejo kidnapped Rodriguez and dumped her body last Thursday, with help from an unidentified witness.
Rodriguez was reported missing after she failed to show up at her animal-grooming job the following day. Her body was found in the lagoon on Saturday and she was identified through dental records on Sunday morning.
Rodriguez’s mother, Keila Ortiz, told reporters that she last spoke to her daughter on the day she died. Rodriguez told her mom that she was going to meet Verdejo later in the day to tell him that she was pregnant.
“I told her, ‘Be careful,’ because he had already threatened her,” Ortiz said. She added that Verdejo had told Rodriguez not to have a baby because of the impact it would have on his career and his family.
Verdejo was immediately identified as a person of interest after Rodriguez’s disappearance, and local police said he initially refused to co-operate with them.
The FBI later filed a criminal complaint charging Verdejo in connection with Rodriguez’s death, based on information from someone with “firsthand, personal knowledge” of the incident.
The witness said Verdejo reached out for help with terminating the victim’s pregnancy, and that they drove together to a meetup with her on Thursday.
The suspect allegedly punched Rodriguez in the face, injected her with an unidentified substance, tied her to a weighted block and stuffed her into her own vehicle, according to the criminal complaint. They then drove to the San Jose Lagoon near San Juan and dropped her off a bridge over the body of water. Verdejo also fired a gun at her body from the bridge, the criminal complaint alleges.
The suspect and the witness then dumped the victim’s car.
Authorities later found the vehicle and corroborated the witness’ information through cellphone records, surveillance footage and tracking data, according to the criminal complaint.
Rodriguez and Verdejo had known each other since they were children, her mother revealed. She said she called Verdejo after Rodriguez disappeared and that he denied seeing her at all that day.
Verdejo represented Puerto Rico at the Olympics in 2012 and turned pro later that year. He has since compiled a 27-2 record with 17 knockouts.
Top Rank Boxing, which has promoted Verdejo, said in a statement that it was “deeply disturbed” by the news of Rodriguez’s death Saturday. The statement was released before Verdejo’s arrest.
“We will continue working towards the ending of gender-based violence, and we offer our deepest condolences to the family of the victim,” U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow said in a statement.
The case sparked mourning and outrage in Puerto Rico, where emotions were already running high after another high-profile death related to domestic violence. In the separate case, a woman was burned to death after her accusation of domestic violence against her partner was dismissed in court.
Hundreds gathered on Sunday to mourn Rodriguez at the lagoon where she was found. Many dropped flowers into the water as tributes.
Verdejo was due in court on Monday. The maximum penalty for the charges against him is death.
— With files from The Associated Press