Texas Couple Charged With Capital Murder in Death of 8-Year-Old Boy

A mother and her boyfriend have been charged with capital murder in Houston, Texas over the death of an 8-year-old who, prosecutors say, was tortured by the couple.

Kayla Holzendorf, 25, and her boyfriend Dominique Lewis, 29, were indicted on Thursday in Harris County, Texas in relation to the death of Holzendorf's son, Keyontae Holzendorf, in March 2021.

If convicted, the couple could face life in prison without parole or possibly the death penalty, according to a statement issued by the Harris County District Attorney's office on Friday.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the indictment against Holzendorf and Lewis, arising from the child's death in a motel bathtub.

The district attorney said Keyontae Holzendorf was handcuffed, severely beaten and bound with duct tape.

The couple called 911 on March 21, 2021, and reported that Keyontae had drowned in the bathtub. They were living in the motel at the time.

The Houston police and fire departments responded and EMTS performed CPR on the child before he was transferred to Texas Children's Hospital, where was pronounced dead.

Holzendorf and Lewis told police that Keyontae "had not been to school in a year and half and didn't have any friends." The couple said that they would buy a large package of muffins in the morning from H-E-B grocery store and the child would then sell them from a basket during the day in the parking lot of Kroger, telling people 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 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."

"The way this little boy died is almost unthinkable and absolutely horrifying," District Attorney 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," she said.

Assistant District Attorney Gilbert Sawtelle, the head of the office's child fatality division, is prosecuting the case.

"This is obvious child torture, and the evidence is clear that the defendants acted intentionally; it was capital murder," Sawtelle said.

Though the couple could potentially face the death penalty, the district attorney's statement noted that decisions about seeking the death penalty "are generally made by a committee of senior prosecutors months after a defendant has been charged."

Newsweek has asked the Harris County District Attorney's office for comment.

Police Tape in Florida in 2016
Police tape marks off the entrance to an apartment building in Fort Pierce, Florida. A couple in Houston, Texas have been charged with capital murder in relation with the death of an 8-year-old boy. Joe Raedle/Getty Images