A Houston couple has been indicted for capital murder in the death of an 8-year-old boy who died in a motel room bathtub after being severely beaten, handcuffed, and bound with duct tape in March 2021, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Friday.
“The way this little boy died is almost unthinkable and absolutely horrifying” Ogg said. “We believe he was handcuffed, bound at the ankles and legs with ligatures and duct-tape, had his mouth taped shut and was beaten so severely that he either died from blunt force trauma or suffocated on the blood from his broken teeth.”
The attack was carried out by the boy’s mother and her boyfriend, Ogg said.
Mother, Kayla Holzendorf, 25, and her boyfriend, Dominique Lewis, 29, were indicted Thursday by a Harris County grand jury for the incident on March 23, 2021.
The couple called 911 to say that Keyontae Holzendorf, 8, had drowned in the bathtub at the motel where they lived.
First responders with the Houston Police and Houston Fire departments arrived to find the boy was wet and there was steam was in bathroom, according to court records. Lewis had water on his clothes.
Emergency Medical Technicians performed CPR and the boy was transported to Texas Children’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He had numerous new and old injuries on his body, including severe ligature marks on his ankles and wrists (from handcuffs), broken teeth, and large pieces of skin missing from his thigh, chest, upper arms, and genitalia, consistent with duct tape being ripped off frantically, according to court records.
The couple told police that the boy had not been to school in a year and a half and didn’t have any friends. Instead, they said, he spends his time with them and they begin their days by buying a large package of muffins from HEB, putting those muffins in a basket and then having the boy sell the muffins in the parking lot of Kroger by saying that his mom baked them.
“This is obvious child torture, and the evidence is clear that the defendants acted intentionally; it was capital murder,” said Assistant District Attorney Gilbert Sawtelle, who is prosecuting the case and is a chief in the DA’s child fatality division.
If convicted of capital murder for killing a child under the age of 10, both could face the death penalty or life in prison without the parole.
Decisions about whether to seek the death penalty are generally made by a committee of senior prosecutors months after a defendant has been charged.
The case was investigated by the Houston Police Department.