Content Warning: This story contains details of an alleged case of extreme physical and sexual abuse of children; this may disturb readers.
Texas prosecutors have won a grand jury indictment against a 25-year-old mother and her 29-year-old boyfriend in the horrific death of the woman’s 8-year-old son. Authorities say the boy was tortured for months before he was brutally murdered in the bathtub of a motel room.
A Harris County grand jury returned indictments on Thursday for capital murder of a child under 10 for both Kayla Holzendorf and Dominique Lewis in the death of Keyontae Holzendorfannounced the prosecutor’s office.
“The way this little boy died is almost unthinkable and absolutely horrific” Harris County Prosecutor Kim Ogg said in a statement. “We believe he was handcuffed, tied at the ankles and legs with ligatures and duct tape, had his mouth shut, and beaten so badly that he either died of a blunt trauma, or choking on the blood of his broken teeth.”
If convicted, Holzendorf and Lewis face life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors said they have not decided whether or not to pursue capital punishment.
As previously reported by Law & Crime, the couple on March 24, 2021 at around 11:00 p.m. called 911 and reported that a child had drowned at the Quality Inn & Suites located at 2930 W. Sam Houston Parkway. Houston Police Department officers and emergency medical technicians responded to the scene.
Upon arriving at the motel, first responders found an unresponsive Keyontae on the bathroom floor. He was soaked and there was still steam in the bathroom, prosecutors said. Police also noted that Lewis had water on his clothes.
Doctors performed CPR and transported Keyontae to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. Doctors attempted to resuscitate the child, but he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead shortly after arriving.
Holzendorf and Lewis initially told police they were both asleep when the boy drowned in the bathtub and claimed they did not know what happened. However, officers at the scene reportedly said the child had clearly suffered a plethora of old and new injuries that indicated long-term physical abuse.
Prosecutors said Keyontae’s injuries included “severe ligature marks on his ankles and wrists (from the handcuffs), broken teeth and large chunks of skin missing on his thigh, chest, arms and legs.” genitals, which is the duct tape frantically ripped off. Police have previously said Keyontae suffered “burns to the shaft of his penis, bruising to the left side of his forehead, a laceration to his left ear, small puncture wounds in various places, and marks of ligature on his ankles and wrists”.
Investigators reportedly found pieces of duct tape with human hair stuck to them thrown in the motel room trash can along with a pair of handcuffs.
The couple told police that Keyontae had not been to school for about a year and a half, prosecutors said. They reportedly said they started each day by buying a large package of muffins from HEB, an area grocery store, then putting them in a cart and having Keyontae sell them in a Kroger’s parking lot saying that they had been cooked by his mother. Kroger’s is another grocery store in the area.
Holzendorf eventually told investigators that she and Lewis locked Keyontae in the bathroom so they could have sex. She reportedly claimed the boy was dead when they checked on him later.
“This is clearly the torture of children, and it is clear that the defendants acted intentionally; it was capital murder,” the assistant district attorney said. Gilbert Sawtellewho is prosecuting the case and is head of the DA’s infant mortality division.
According to the prosecutor’s office, a committee of senior prosecutors typically decides to seek death in a case several months after charges are filed.
Both Holzendorf and Lewis have been held in Harris County Jail since their initial arrests. Records indicate that their bonds were revoked following the indictment of capital punishment.[image via Harris County Sheriff’s Office]
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