8-year-old boy had numerous scars 'indicative of belt whippings' 3 weeks before death, report says

Jessica Willey Image
Friday, June 18, 2021
Boy had scars 'indicative of belt whippings' before death, report says
According to the state report, the 8-year-old boy's mother said he fell off his bike, but his injuries were not consistent with that explanation.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A newly-released state report reveals what happened when abuse was reported three weeks before 8-year-old Keyontae Holzendorf was found dead inside a hotel with "horrendous" injuries.

The Child Fatality Report, released Thursday by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, includes information on the boy's death on March 23 as well as contact that the department had with him starting February 28.

His mother, Kayla Holzendorf, and her common-law husband, Dominique Lewis, are charged with injury to a child and tampering with evidence and remain in jail.

It was late February when a stranger saw Keyontae outside a grocery store in west Houston and suspected abuse. She took a video of him talking to Houston police. The images are now haunting.

WATCH: 8-year-old boy's parents charged in connection with his death

The boy's mother, Kayla Holzendorf, 24, and her common-law husband, Dominique Lewis, 28, have been charged with injury to a child and tampering with evidence. Those charges could be upgraded.

Police took a report and referred the case to CPS.

According to the state report, Keyontae's mother said he fell off his bike, but his injuries were not consistent with that explanation.

At the emergency room, medical staff observed "numerous scars" on his back "indicative of belt whippings." The report said the boy's mother blamed it on her former boyfriend. The department did not confirm or refute abuse. She was given information about mental health services and family violence and that was it.

WATCH: Family of 8-year-old killed: 'We just want to know why'

The grandparents of an 8-year-old boy found dead with "horrendous" injuries is begging for answers and says this tragedy isn't something people should go through. Did they ever spot signs of abuse? Was there something out of the ordinary prior to his death. Hit play to hear what they said.

"Here is a case where we had a child who was abused and because not enough investigation went on, they really reunited the child with his abuser," said Dr. Bob Sanborn, CEO/President of Children-At-Risk. "Can you imagine? This was hell for this young boy. This was sort of worst-case scenario and as you read this report, you're devastated for him."

The truth was that Kayla's "paramour," as her boyfriend was referred to in the report, was still in the picture. Investigators believe she and Lewis moved Keyontae's body to the bathtub at the hotel before they reported a drowning. The report said the boy sustained numerous injuries to his head, neck, abdomen and extremities. He had ligature marks on his wrists and ankles and missing skin where duct tape had been ripped off.

After his death, the state confirmed physical abuse and neglect.

"The DFPS investigation into Keyontae Holzendorf's death is closed. The department does conduct separate internal reviews of case handlings, but the details of those are not public record," said Melissa Lanford, a DFPS media specialist, in a statement to ABC13.

Sanborn said the system failed Keyontae and hopes for justice for him.

"This is horrible. This little kid never had a chance."

Follow Jessica Willey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.