Houston authorities were apparently alerted about possible child abuse three weeks prior to the young boy losing his life, but the police department said it followed proper protocol.
ABC 13 reports that Kayla Holzendorf, 24, and her boyfriend, Dominique Lewis, 28, are both behind bars in connection with the death of Holzendorf’s young son, Keyontae Holzendorf.
According to the Houston Police Department, first responders arrived at the Quality Inn & Suites at 2930 West Sam Houston Parkway South on Wednesday, after someone reported that a child drowned. Authorities said they found Keyonta in the hotel room covered in physical injuries that wouldn’t have happened from drowning.
The boy was rushed to the Texas Children’s Hospital in Katy, where he was officially pronounced dead.
Both suspects were in the hotel room when police arrived. While doing a search, deputies found handcuffs and duct tape in the room. Holzendorf allegedly admitted to police that she hid the handcuffs.
“We believe those handcuffs may be associated with ligature marks on the ankles,” Gilbert Sawtelle, the chief prosecutor of the Child Fatality Division at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, told ABC 13.
Along with ligature marks, Sawtelle said the boy had “large patches of skin missing from his chest, upper arms, thighs, and genitalia.”
A witness, Nahji Jackson, told the station that she saw the boy around three weeks before he died. He was selling muffins outside of a Food Town grocery store, and according to Jackson, he kept falling asleep. Jackson said Keyontae had cuts and bruises, both old and new, which prompted her to contact the police.
“When I asked the little boy if he was okay, all he did was stare at me. He did not speak.” Jackson said. “I felt like I could have did more, but what more could I have done?”
HPD spokesman John Cannon reportedly said that the officers who arrived to check on the boy after Jackson’s call noted he appeared playful and unafraid of his mother and Lewis. The suspects told the responding officer that the bruises on the boy came from a bike accident.
The officer then ran the suspects’ names with Child Protective Services, then contacted the state’s CPS Physical Abuse Unit. A CPS spokesperson said that the family does have a previous case but wouldn’t provide additional details.
Both suspects were detained subsequently arrested. They’re facing charges of injury to a child and tampering with evidence. Additional charges could follow, pending autopsy results.
“We believe this to be domestic violence-related, and we are investigating this now with our homicide division … we suspect foul play,” Assistant Chief Wendy Baimbridge with the Houston Police Department said. “We are looking at both mom and boyfriend and interviewing them at this time.”
Holzendorf’s bail was set at $150,000 total, while Lewis’ bail was set at $300,000. As of Thursday afternoon, both remain behind bars.
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[Feature Photo: Keyontae Holzendorf/Screenshot via ABC 13]