Couple charged in “long-term torture” death of 8-year-old

Kayla Holzendorf, 24, and Dominique Lewis, 28, of Houston, Texas. [Image credit: Houston Police Department]

Editor's note: Some of the details of this case are incredibly disturbing. We have presented the facts here without giving too many details. Please use caution when visiting some of the sourced links.

Tuesday night Houston Police were called to a reported downing death of a child at a Quality Inn & Suites. When they arrived, they found 8-year-old Keyontae Holzendorf lying in the center of a room with injuries that were noted as being inconsistent with a drowning.


He was rushed to Texas Children's Hospital in Katy where he was pronounced dead. A full autopsy is being conducted and charges against the couple may change once the results are released. Preliminary autopsy results indicate that Kayantae likely died from a combination of blunt force trauma and asphyxiation.


At this time his mother, 24-year-old Kayla Holzendorf and her common-law husband, 28-year-old Dominique Lewis are both charged with injury to a child and tampering with evidence. Both remain in custody of the Harris County Sheriff's Department.


According to Prosecutor Gilbert Sawtelle this is clearly a "long-term torture case" and he believes that Lewis was likely the main culprit. He told Judge Hilary Unger earlier today that Kayantae had scars on his back and thighs as well as injuries to his face and body that were consistent with duct tape being ripped away.


Investigators searching the motel room found duct tape with what appeared to be hair and skin.


"I can't completely say we are sold that it was a drowning," Sawtelle was quoted as saying ahead of yesterday's hearing. "When HFD and Houston police arrived, this complain had many, many signs of chronic abuse, both old and new injuries and the new injuries are horrendous. It involves large patches of skin missing from his chest, upper arms, thighs and genitalia. He also had fairly new, deep ligature marks on his ankles."


Handcuffs, which Holzendorf admitted to hiding under a mattress in the room, are believed to have played a roll in the ligature marks.


Less than a month before his death, a woman identified as 30-year-old Nahji Jackson contacted police about suspected abuse after coming in contact with Kayantae and his mother while he sold muffins outside of a grocery store.


She noticed that he had a cut under his right eyelid, burns, and other cuts and bruises. She told officers that she had asked him what happened and he had said he had fallen off his bike. She followed up with saying, "You can be honest." Jackson said the boy fell silent and his mother became defensive.


Officers soon responded to the location to preform a welfare check. They found the boy to appear playful and unafraid of either his mother or step-father. Before departing the scene, officers spoke with Harris County Child Protective Services and learned that there appeared to be no prior contact with the family. The officer notified appropriate agencies about the report as a precautionary measure.


When leaving the grocery store, Jackson said that she had told the boy, "Somebody loves you- I love you. I'm sorry I can't do nothing else."