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Felix Verdejo Pleads Not Guilty

By: Sean Crose

Welterweight Felix Verdejo has pleaded not guilty to charges he murdered Keishla Ortiz and her unborn child. Ortiz went missing on April 29th. Her body was found in a lagoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico on May 1st. Verdejo turned himself into authorities on May 2nd. Last Thursday, May 6th, he and his reputed accomplice, Luis Antonio Cádiz-Martínez, were indicted for “carjacking resulting in death…kidnapping resulting in death…killing an unborn child.”

Verdejo appeared virtually in court Tuesday from a jail in Guaynabo, where he is now staying.  Judge Camille Vélez Rivé oversaw the hearing, asking Verdejo if he had read and understood the charges against him. Verdejo indicated that he had, then presented the not guilty plea. The Orlando Sentinel reports that “Verdejo is represented by federal legal aid attorney Laura Maldonado Rodríguez and private attorney José Irizarry Pérez and David Ruhnke, appointed by the court as an expert attorney in death penalty cases.” The defense didn’t ask for bail, and Rive ordered that the fighter continued to be held until trial. Jonathan Gotftried acted as prosecutor for the government at Tuesday’s hearing. Cádiz-Martínez is now reportedly helping the government as a witness.

The prosecution alleges that Verdejo and Cadiz-Martinez led Ortiz into a vehicle on April 30th. Verdejo then punched her and injected the pregnant woman with a drug. Having bound Ortiz with wire and having tied her to at least one brick, both men drove out to a bridge, where Verdejo subsequently threw Ortiz into the water. The former Olympian then reportedly fired a gun at Ortiz, though the cause of death for Ortiz was drowning. Ortiz had apparently wanted to inform the married Verdejo that she was pregnant with his child. The child was reportedly a month old. Ortiz’ face was said to have had fractures when her body was discovered. She was 27 at the time of her death.

Verdejo and Ortiz had reportedly known each other since junior high school. Although Verdejo is eligible for the death penalty if found guilty, Ortiz’ family members have indicated they would prefer to have the fighter spend the rest of his days in incarceration. Verdejo, 27, has a child with with his wife, Eliz Marie Santiago Sierra. Verdejo’s promotional outlet, Top Rank Promotions, removed the welterweight from it’s online fighter list last week. Verdejo was last in the ring back in December where he was defeated by Masayoshi Nakatani.

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