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Death of Texas 8-Year-Old Who Was Allegedly Tortured by Parents and Had ‘Burns to the Shaft of His Penis’ Is Ruled a Homicide

Kayla Holzendorf and Dominique Lewis

Kayla Holzendorf and Dominique Lewis

Warning: This story contains graphic details of extreme physical and sexual child abuse that will be upsetting to readers.

The drowning death of an 8-year-old boy in Texas who prosecutors say was tortured for months by his mom and her common-law husband has officially been ruled a homicide, law enforcement authorities said.

The Houston Medical Examiner’s Office formally determined that Keyontae Holzendorf, who was found dead months ago inside of a motel room rented by his parents, did not die accidentally, Houston ABC affiliate KTRK reported.

Officers with the Houston Police Department responded on March 24 to a report of a drowned child at the Quality Inn & Suites located at 2930 W. Sam Houston Parkway at approximately 11 p.m.

Upon arriving at the scene, first responders found Keyontae unresponsive. The boy’s mother, 24-year-old Kayla Holzendorf, and her 28-year-old husband, Dominique Lewis, reportedly told police that they were both asleep when the boy drowned in the bathtub and claimed they didn’t know what happened. Police reportedly saw, however, that the child had clearly sustained a series of both old and new injuries indicative of physical abuse.

During a subsequent investigation, detectives reportedly discovered that the child had been the victim of chronic and extreme physical abuse at the hands of his parents. Detectives concluded that on the night Keyontae died, he was extensively tortured by both Kayla and Lewis, in court documents obtained by KTRK.

“Police wrote they observed new and old injuries on his body the night he died and the details are graphic. They include burn patches on his chest and body, burns to the shaft of his penis, bruising to the left side of his forehead, a laceration to the left ear, small puncture wounds to different places and ligature marks on his ankles and wrists,” the report stated.

According to a report from Houston NBC affiliate KPRC-TV, prosecutors with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said that fresh patches of skin had been ripped from the child’s body in several places, including his face and inner thighs, and that investigators found pieces of duct tape with human hair discarded in the motel room along with a pair of handcuffs.

Police also reportedly wrote that Kayla Holzendorf eventually told investigators that she and Lewis locked Keyontae in the bathroom so they could have sex. She allegedly claimed the boy was dead when they checked on him later.

Assistant Harris County District Attorney Gilbert G. Sawtelle IV in March referred to Keyontae’s death as a “long-term torture case” and painted Lewis as the primary culprit.

The full autopsy report is yet to be released, but preliminary results reportedly revealed that the likely cause of Keyontae’s death was a combination of blunt force trauma and asphyxiation, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle.

The suspects were both arrested and charged with injury to a child and tampering with evidence, but authorities reportedly said that the charges may be upgraded or more charges may be added pending their investigation into Keyontae’s death.

Kayla Holzendorf’s mother, Keyontae’s grandmother, told KPRC that she believes her daughter and Lewis killed her grandson.

“Yes, I think that they are responsible, Kayla and Dominique, and we just want justice for Keyontae. We want to know what happened,” Sheryl Holzendorf told KPRC 2 back in March, adding that the family was in “disbelief” about Keyontae’s death.

According to online records, Kayla Holzendorf is currently being held in a Harris County Jail on $150,000 bond. Lewis is being held in the same facility on $250,000 bond.

[image via Harris County Sheriff’s Office]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.