Félix Verdejo could spend up to an hour swimming on the beach to prepare for a boxing match. In April 2021, his career was “well on the way to being a world champion,” according to his coach Cruz Manuel García Figueroa.
On April 28, 2021, one day before the disappearance of Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz was reported, the ex-boxer went from telling his ex-wife Eliz Marie Santiago Sierra “ridiculous” to asking her for forgiveness in a desperate tone through text messages and telling him that he did not want to be with Keishla “ever in his life.”
On May 1, the day Keishla’s remains appeared in the San José Lagoon, Verdejo reportedly contacted his wife shortly after authorities said the crime was committed. At 10:27 p.m. morning, he asked Santiago Sierra by text if he had to look for their daughter that afternoon. And at 10:46 in the morning, Verdejo sent a photo of the interior of his vehicle to Santiago Sierra, saying: “Look what I found in the crazy bus.” It was a pink-patterned toothbrush.
The light brown 9-millimeter Glock weapon with a 17-round magazine that Verdejo was carrying at dawn on May 2, when the Police confirmed that he was in a house in Caguas, was missing two bullets.
Those were some of the most outstanding data that emerged yesterday on the fifth day of the federal trial against the former boxing star accused of four counts related to the death of Keishla.
The data is related to the theory established by the prosecution that Verdejo did not want Keishla to have the child she was expecting from him. Although he tried to convince her not to have it, Keishla was determined to have it. Later, when his alleged attempts to have him sink into the San José lagoon, where he would have dumped the body still alive, did not work either, the alleged accomplice Luis Cádiz Martínez, on orders from the ex-boxer, allegedly fired two shots at Keishla that did not hit her. It was then that -according to theorize- Verdejo jumped into the water to drag the body under the Teodoro Moscoso bridge to prevent it from being seen.
Verdejo’s defense asked Manuel Colón Ruiz, from the Specialized Division for Major Crimes and one of yesterday’s main witnesses, why he was in charge of the murder investigation if he knew that a red SUV stopped in the Teodoro Moscoso bridge “a few minutes before the Dodge Durango stopped…in the same place”. The agent noted that this was not discussed.
Near the start of the day, at least one of the jurors closed her eyes and raised both hands to her face as 11 harrowing photos of Keishla’s body were paraded, including when authorities pulled her out of the lagoon 1 on May 1, 2021. Each jury member has a front monitor less than a foot away, where the pieces of evidence are displayed.
The room also has two screens on which the public can watch the test parade.
In some of the images, you could see a not-very-thick wire, silver in color, that surrounded various parts of the victim’s body. A cement block was attached to that same cable.
It could be seen that Keishla’s waist was full of black and purple bruises, and the wire felt tight against her skin. His left arm had so many marks that it looked like it had been covered in dark tattoos. The remains were swollen.
Keishla’s father, José Antonio Rodríguez, tried to comfort her brother on her mother’s side, Jonathan Román, placing his hand on his back until Román couldn’t take it anymore. He got up and left the room in a hurry.
When they finished showing the images, Rodríguez also left the room briefly, accompanied by an officer from the Victim Services Division of the state Department of Justice.
Colón Ruiz was in charge of describing the photos. “He had a diamond tattoo on his back,” the agent explained.
What was the location?
Later that day, Colón Ruiz went to the Antigua Vía sector in Caimito, where other police officers found the black Dodge Durango bus they were looking for, owned by the former champion. Neighbors informed him that the bus was indeed Verdejo’s and that the ex- boxer’s mother and grandmother lived in the house near where it was parked.
Although Colón Ruiz knocked on the door of that house, no one answered. Subsequently, steps were taken to obtain a search warrant for the bus, and they took it away.
The agent said that in the early hours of May 2, after receiving “intelligence” information, he went to the residence where Verdejo was known to be in the Golden Gate I urbanization in the Bairoa neighborhood of Caguas. There they were received by a woman named Jennifer Acevedo, whose relationship with the ex-boxer was not detailed, and who supposedly wore nightwear “like a ‘baby doll'” and confirmed that the ex-boxer was there.
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When asked by lawyer Jason González Delgado and looking at some of the evidence photos, Colón Ruiz acknowledged that Acevedo was wearing a shirt and pants but reaffirmed that for him, it was a “baby doll” or nightwear.
Verdejo later came out of one of the rooms and was barely wearing shorts, Colón Ruiz said. There he sought to occupy his car keys and telephone. Although it was not what they sought, Verdejo voluntarily handed over his weapon. Instead, he claimed that his lawyer had the cell phone.
One of the few times the former boxer had diverted his gaze – during the five days he has kept firm towards the front – was yesterday when they showed the seized weapon to his lawyers.
Colón Ruiz indicated that from Caguas, they went to Santiago Sierra’s house, and there they seized another weapon and several boxes with ammunition in a safe.
On May 2, when Verdejo went to the Hato Rey Oeste barracks with his lawyers Jorge Colina and Elí López Montes, he took his cell phone out of the right pocket of his pants, Colón Ruiz assured.
The unit had both the screen and the back cracked. When showing it as evidence, the screen was activated on which a photo of Verdejo could be seen with his arms flexed upwards, and his fists clenched, showing the head.
It was from that cell phone that Ricardo Díaz Torres, an expert with 10 years of experience as a forensic officer in electronic equipment, extracted the conversations between Verdejo and Santiago Sierra, whom the ex-boxer identified in the WhatsApp application as “Suffering my wife.”
As shown, at 4:27 in the afternoon of April 26, 2021, Santiago Sierra told her that he would have to see her face for their daughter, but if it were up to her, they would not see each other again. He told him that they would have to balance the aspects of the pension and that he did not want to owe him anything, to which Verdejo told him: “…mature, ridiculous.”
“They are not jokes. This shit is over,” she wrote to him.
Several minutes later, around 5:00 p.m. that day, Santiago Sierra shows Verdejo a screenshot of a call he received from Keishla. From there, he began to write everything in capital letters, which in the message tag is interpreted as “scream.”
“THAT YOU ARE SEEN, AND SHE IS EVEN MORE… MAKE APOLOGIES FOR CU… AND SHE WAITS FOR MY VISIT… YOU’RE NOT WORTH A DISGUSTING… And you’re leaving here today,” were some things he wrote to her.
On April 28, 2021, Santiago Sierra tells Verdejo that he chose his “single life,” to which he replies, “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“The ridicule is you who lose what you cannot buy. I’ve had enough of your lies, and she won’t quit, but I am. He achieved his goal, and he has you complete it. Now enjoy your life and go on all your trips without any mystery,” Santiago Sierra told him.
As the messages continued, the promises increased. Verdejo wrote to Santiago Sierra that is not having her hurt him, that with his soul, he asked for one last chance to treat her as he deserved, and that he never thought he would be in a situation like the one he was going through.
“I thought I knew them all. I see that, no. Give me a chance, and you will be a queen as always but with more sanity as you deserve”, she implored.
The trial continues today at 9:00 in the morning in the courtroom of federal judge Pedro Delgado.