Rodríguez, 27, did not show up to work that day. Two days later, her lifeless body was found in a lagoon in San Juan.
On Sunday, Verdejo, 27, turned himself in to the FBI to face charges that he kidnapped and killed Rodríguez. The authorities say the boxer punched Rodríguez and that she was injected with a syringe full of unknown “substances” before her death, and then thrown off a bridge.
Verdejo did not immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post late Sunday. Court records do not list an attorney representing him as of early Monday.
Rodríguez’s killing has sparked protests in Puerto Rico and an avalanche of social media posts denouncing violence against women, which has been so rampant on the island that in January, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared a state of emergency over the issue. Last year, 60 people were killed because of their gender, according to the Observatory of Gender Equality of Puerto Rico.
Rodríguez’s death also came days after the body of another woman was found partially burned. The victim, Andrea Ruiz Costas, had filed a gender violence complaint against her partner in March, but a judge dismissed the case, local media reported. Her partner has since been charged with murder.
Verdejo, who is married, had kept in touch with Rodríguez since they met in middle school, her parents told local media. She worked at a pet grooming business and owned two cats and two dogs, Ortiz Rivera told El Nuevo Día. She was so passionate about animals that whenever she was not at work, she could usually be found rescuing and leaving food for stray animals.
Verdejo rose to fame in 2012 when he represented Puerto Rico at the London Olympics and then became a professional boxer in the lightweight division. In 2016, he suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident that left him hospitalized and paused his career. According to Top Rank, a boxing promotion company based in Las Vegas that listed Verdejo as one of its fighters, his boxing record is 27-2, with 17 knockouts. A representative with Top Rank did not immediately respond to a message from The Post late on Sunday.
Ortiz Rivera had a reason to worry when around 7 a.m. on Thursday, her daughter shared she was meeting Verdejo to discuss her pregnancy, she said.
“He 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,” Ortiz Rivera told El Nuevo Día in Spanish.
About two hours later, Ortiz Rivera received a call from her other daughter informing her Rodríguez didn’t go to work that day. Ortiz Rivera, who lives in Orlando, boarded a plane to Puerto Rico that same day and reported her daughter missing, she said. Later that evening, authorities issued a missing person alert.
According to a witness who later cooperated with authorities, Verdejo contacted the witness on April 27 and “requested his help to terminate the pregnancy.” He allegedly told the witness that Rodríguez was pregnant with his child.
Then on Thursday, the complaint states, Verdejo contacted Rodríguez and arranged to meet near her house. Rodríguez walked into Verdejo’s car and moments later, he allegedly punched her in the face. Then “she was injected with a syringe filled with substances,” court records state. Verdejo and the witness allegedly tied her arms and feet with wire before attaching a block to her body.
At that point, the witness said he took Rodríguez’s keys and drove her sedan to the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge, which spans the San Jose Lagoon between San Juan and Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Verdejo met the witness at the bridge, court records state, and Rodríguez’s body was dumped into the lagoon. Then, Verdejo allegedly shot at the victim with a pistol from the bridge. Her car was abandoned and found the next day by Puerto Rico’s Police Bureau.
According to the complaint, cellphone and location data corroborated the witness’s claims and showed Verdejo was near Rodríguez on Thursday. Surveillance camera footage of the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge reviewed by the FBI also showed a dark SUV that matched Verdejo’s car parking on the emergency lane of the bridge around 8:30 a.m. that day.
On Sunday, authorities announced they had identified Rodríguez’s body through dental records. Her autopsy has been completed, but her cause of death has not yet been released.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Sunday at Teodoro Moscoso Bridge, demanding an end to gender violence on the island. Rodríguez’s sister, Bereliz Nichole Rodríguez, dressed in her sister’s work clothes, stood in the middle of the bridge and held a photo in memory of her.
“I’m a part of her,” Bereliz Nichole said told El Nuevo Día. “I’m even dressed as her. [I want] justice to be made.”
Outside a federal court on Sunday, Rodríguez’s mother held a sign with her daughter’s photo reading in Spanish, “Her name is Keishla and we want her alive.” She told reporters that justice for her daughter and her unborn child is just beginning.
“Verdejo is a murderer. … The diamond is my daughter,” Ortiz Rivera said referencing Verdejo’s nickname, “El Diamante.”
She added, “I know God is going to help me to do justice for my daughter and my grandson.”
Court records do not indicate when Verdejo is due in court.