Boxer Felix Verdejo charged after body of missing woman found

Lightweight boxer Felix Verdejo faces federal charges stemming from the death of a 27-year-old woman whose body was found in a lagoon in Puerto Rico, officials announced late Sunday night.

The body of Keishla Rodriguez, who was pregnant at the time of her death, was found a couple of days after she was reported missing. She was identified Sunday via dental records, Puerto Rico's Institute of Forensic Science said in a statement.

The FBI arrested Verdejo, whose full name is Felix Verdejo-Sanchez, on Sunday and charged him with kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking resulting in death and intentionally killing an unborn child -- known as the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004."

Verdejo, 27, could face life imprisonment or the death penalty for the carjacking and kidnapping charges, and life imprisonment for the intentional killing of an unborn child charge.

Federal Judge Camille Velez ordered Verdejo to be held without bail on Monday and said, "This is a death-penalty-eligible case."

While the death penalty does not exist in Puerto Rico, it can be used in cases that have federal charges such as the ones Verdejo is facing.

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.

A criminal complaint filed by the FBI accuses Verdejo of punching Rodriguez in the face and injecting her with a syringe filled with an unidentified substance bought at a public housing complex. It alleges that he then bound her arms and feet with wire and tied a heavy block to her before throwing her off a bridge at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

The complaint states that Verdejo then shot at Rodriguez's body as he stood on the bridge. The complaint says an unidentified witness helped Verdejo kidnap and kill Rodriguez.

The FBI is in charge of the investigation and worked with the Puerto Rico Police Bureau and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice on the case.

"Puerto Rico mourns Keishla Rodríguez's death. Our deepest condolences to her family and friends," said Alexis Torres, the secretary of the Department of Public Safety of Puerto Rico, in a statement Sunday night. "The Puerto Rico Police Bureau and the federal agencies have worked long hours collaborating as a team to solve this cold murder expeditiously.

"Our police officers' dedication, passion and experience were essential in solving this murder in 48 hours. It demonstrates how the collaboration of efforts is essential for our public safety. We'll keep on working together and we will seek justice for Keishla."

Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Gottfried, who is the chief of the Violent Crimes and National Security Section of the U.S. attorney's office, will be the prosecutor in the case. Court records show Verdejo will be represented by Jose F. Irizarry-Perez and Laura Maldonado-Rodriguez.

Verdejo and his attorneys previously declined comment, and police said the boxer did not originally cooperate and refused to answer questions.

Top Rank, which has promoted Verdejo since he turned pro in 2012, released a statement on the situation on Saturday.

"Top Rank's thoughts and prayers are with Keishla Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz's family and friends, and with all those in mourning," the statement read. "We are deeply disturbed by the news reports, and we will continue to monitor developments in the case as it progresses."

As of Sunday night, Verdejo's fighter page was no longer on the Top Rank website. A representative for Top Rank, reached Sunday night, referred to the statement the promotion released Saturday and had no further comment.

Rodriguez's family has said she was pregnant with Verdejo's child. Keila Ortiz, the woman's mother, told reporters that her daughter had called her before she vanished Thursday and told her Verdejo was going to her house to see the results of a pregnancy test.

"I told her, 'Be careful,' because he had already threatened her" and told her not to have the baby, mentioning his career and family, she said.

Verdejo is married, but he had known Rodriguez since middle school and had kept in touch with her, her parents said. They reported her missing after she didn't show up to work at an animal grooming business.

Verdejo (27-2, 17 KOs) is a former Olympian who represented Puerto Rico in 2012. His professional career was temporarily sidetracked after he was hospitalized following a motorcycle crash in 2016.

The case has outraged many in Puerto Rico, where another woman was recently found burned to death after she filed a domestic violence complaint that a judge dismissed. A Superior Court judge has announced an investigation into that decision.

Hundreds of people gathered Sunday at a bridge that crosses the lagoon where Rodriguez's body was found to demand justice for her and other women killed, with some throwing flowers into the water below. Another protest was organized on Monday, where people gathered near the governor's mansion to demand that officials do a better job of protecting victims of domestic violence.

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said at a news conference that his administration is addressing what he called a pattern of sexist and discriminatory violence.

"We recognize that this is decades old, and that it is regrettably a culture that needs to be corrected," he said. "There are multiple steps to take.''

ESPN's Brett Okamoto, Michael Rothstein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.