Puerto Rican ex-boxer Félix Verdejo sentenced to life in prison in the killing of his pregnant lover

FILE - Puerto Rican boxer Felix Verdejo poses after his weigh-in at Madison Square Garden in New York, June 10, 2016. Verdejo received two life sentences on Nov. 3, 2023 after he was found guilty in the killing of his 27-year-old pregnant lover. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Former Puerto Rican boxer Félix Verdejo received two life sentences on Friday after he was found guilty in the grisly killing of his 27-year-old pregnant lover.

A federal judge sentenced Verdejo following emotional speeches by the family of Keishla Rodríguez, who was killed in April 2021.

Verdejo had been found guilty in July of kidnapping that leads to a death and of causing the death of an unborn child. His attorney said Friday that he plans to appeal the sentencing.

Many across Puerto Rico celebrated the outcome of the case.

“This sentence should serve as a lesson for others,” Puerto Rico Police Commissioner Antonio López said. “It doesn't matter how much fame, money or power you think you have. If you break the law, you will have to respond.”

During the trial earlier this year, Luis Antonio Cádiz, a friend of Verdejo’s also charged in the case, said the former boxer had pressured Rodríguez to get an abortion. He also testified that the day Verdejo killed Rodríguez, the ex-boxer punched her and injected her with a toxic substance before they tied her limbs to a cement block and threw her off a busy bridge and into a lagoon in broad daylight.

Cádiz later called 911 anonymously and provided the location of Rodríguez’s body.

An autopsy found that Rodríguez had fentanyl and xylazine, a sedative used for animals including horses, in her system.

The case stunned the U.S. territory, where many have demanded better protection for domestic violence victims.

Verdejo had participated in the 2012 Olympics and became a professional boxer that year. He finished his career in the lightweight division with a 27-2 record, with 17 knockouts.