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Boxer Felix Verdejo could face death penalty over alleged killing of pregnant woman

A federal judge ordered Puerto Rican boxer Felix Verdejo held without bail after he was charged in the death of a 27-year-old women believed to be pregnant with his child. Keishla Rodriguez’s body was found in a lagoon on Saturday.

Verdejo is charged with kidnapping and carjacking resulting in the death of Rodriguez and with intentionally killing an unborn child. He did not make any comments during Monday’s hearing.

“This is a death penalty-eligible case,” said the judge, Camille Velez.

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 in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. It alleges he then bound her arms and feet with wire, tied a heavy block to her before throwing her off a bridge on Thursday morning. He is then alleged to have shot at her body. The complaint says a witness it did not identify helped Verdejo kidnap and kill Rodriguez.

The US government has 30 days to present the case to a federal grand jury. A date for Verdejo’s next hearing has yet to be announced.

Rodriguez, who was reported missing on Thursday after she didn’t show up for her job at an animal grooming business, was found in a lagoon near San Juan on Saturday. Officials identified her on Sunday via dental records.

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

Rodriguez’s family said she was pregnant with Verdejo’s child. Keila Ortiz, the victim’s mother, told reporters that her daughter called on 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,” Ortiz said. She said Verdejo had told her daughter not to have the baby, mentioning his career and family.

Verdejo is married and has a young daughter but had known Rodriguez since middle school and maintained a relationship with her, her parents said.

Verdejo represented Puerto Rico at the 2012 Olympics and became a professional boxer that year, competing in the lightweight division. His career was temporarily sidetracked after he was hospitalized following a 2016 motorcycle accident.

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 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.

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