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Felix Verdejo Carjacking/Kidnapping/Murder Trial To Begin February 27, 2023

An official trial date has been assigned in the ongoing criminal case involving Felix Verdejo.

The most productive status conference to date came from Thursday’s hearing from The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico in San Juan. Judge Pedro A. Delgado-Hernandez issued a detailed timeline of the next several dates, including a trial date of February 27, 2023. Verdejo and co-defendant Luis Antonio Cadiz-Martinez faces charges of carjacking resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death and killing of an unborn child in the abduction and murder of Verdejo’s former lover Keishla Marlen Rodriguez last April.

Both face up to 99 years in prison on each individual charge if found guilty, the maximum allowable punishment under PR law after the government removed the possibility of pursuing as a death penalty case on January 31.

“We need to start working on the specific time frame for this trial,” judge Delgado-Hernandez stated to the prosecution and defense during Thursday’s hearing, with among a select few media outlets permitted to attend via Zoom conference call.

The government and defense teams both agreed to the judge’s established timeline. All parties will next meet for a status conference hearing on August 19, with pre-trial prep to formally begin October 12. Judge Delgado-Hernandez established a November 18 deadline to remove, suppress or file any final motions.

The government will have until December to oppose any motions, with the defense permitted to reply by no later than December 16.

The first conference date of 2023 will take place January 14, followed by the final pre-trial conference hearing on February 10.

Verdejo also faces one charge of discharging a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime. The offense carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, though only in conjunction with a guilty verdict returned in any of the other charges. The former lightweight contender will remain in prison as his newly formed legal team reviews the extensive discovery and interview all identified witnesses, which estimates the prosecution as “between 10-15” but only half of which are expected to testify.

Verdejo remains represented by Jose Irizarry, who is aided by Jason Gonzalez-Delgado as recently appointed by the CJA (Criminal Justice Act). Additional counsel was sought from the previous status conference hearing in February upon the removal of attorneys Laura Maldonado and David Ruhnke, both of whom were on board only as expert federal death penalty resource counsels, but whose services were no longer necessary once the government chose to longer pursue capital punishment.

Thursday’s hearing was agreed upon by all parties in February, given the need for Verdejo to secure new counsel in line with his financial strains.

“This is a very difficult case,” Irizarry previously pleaded to the court. “I need an investigator and a paralegal. If not, it will all be in favor of the government. The government will have all the resources and we will have no resources to try the case.”

With that comes another 90-day period for Verdejo’s new legal team to review all facts of the case.

Verdejo was already believed to have been financially strained in the early stages of the ongoing court case, having not boxed since December 2020. The 2012 Puerto Rico Olympian and former lightweight contender was knocked out in the ninth round by Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani, having scored two early knockdowns before falling apart late in suffering the stoppage in their ESPN-televised bout from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

San Juan’s Verdejo (27-2, 17KOs) has remained in prison since May 2, when he surrendered to authorities following a three-day search for Rodriguez who was first reported missing by family members on April 29. A rescue mission was changed to a recovery mission once preliminary evidence suggested she was no longer alive. Those fears were realized on May 1, when she was pulled from Laguna San Jose in Carolina, Puerto Rico.

A detailed investigation report—aided by what reports indicate as a cooperating witness with first-hand knowledge of the case—revealed that Verdejo and Cádiz-Martinez both intentionally killed Rodriguez and “committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner in that it involved serious physical abuse to the victim.” Verdejo entered a plea of ​​not guilty to all charges last May 11.

A shrine remains in place along the bridge in memory of Rodriguez.

Four separate status conference hearings have been held, the most recent taking place last February 10. All four sessions concluded with the request for more time to review evidence, although Thursday’s hearing provided the most specific outline of what to expect moving forward.

With the matter no longer a capital punishment case, Verdejo will serve in a stateside-based prison if found guilty of any or all charges.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox


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