A mother and her boyfriend have been charged with capital murder in Houston, Texas, in the death of an 8-year-old child who prosecutors say was tortured by the couple.
Kayla Holzendorf, 25, and her boyfriend Dominique Lewis, 29, were charged Thursday in Harris County, Texas, in connection with the death of Holzendorf’s son, Keyontae Holzendorf, in March 2021.
If convicted, the couple could face life in prison without the possibility of parole or possibly the death penalty, according to a statement released Friday by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the indictment against Holzendorf and Lewis, stemming from the child’s death in a motel bathtub.
The district attorney said Keyontae Holzendorf was handcuffed, severely beaten and tied up with duct tape.
The couple called 911 on March 21, 2021 and reported that Keyontae had drowned in the bathtub. They lived in the motel at the time.
Houston police and firefighters responded and EMTS performed CPR on the child before he was transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Holzendorf and Lewis told police that Keyontae “hadn’t been to school for a year and a half and had no friends.” The couple said they would buy a large package of muffins in the morning at the HEB grocery store and the child would then sell them in a cart during the day in the Kroger parking lot, telling people that his mother had baked them, according to the Houston District Attorney’s Office.
Citing court records, the Houston District Attorney’s Office said Keyontae had “numerous new and old injuries to his body, including severe ligature marks on his ankles and wrists (from handcuffs), teeth broken and large chunks of skin missing from his thigh, chest, upper arms and genitals consistent with the duct tape being frantically ripped off.”
“The way this little boy died is almost unthinkable and absolutely horrifying,” District Attorney Ogg said.
“We believe he was handcuffed, tied at the ankles and legs with ligatures and duct tape, had his mouth taped shut and beaten so badly that he is either death from blunt force trauma, or suffocated by blood from broken teeth,” she added. noted.
Assistant District Attorney Gilbert Sawtelle, chief of the bureau’s child deaths division, is prosecuting the case.
“This is clear child torture, and the evidence is clear that the defendants acted intentionally; it was capital murder,” Sawtelle said.
Although the couple could potentially face the death penalty, the district attorney’s statement noted that decisions to seek the death penalty “are usually made by a committee of senior prosecutors months after a defendant is charged.” .
Newsweek requested comment from the Harris County prosecutor’s office.