HOUSTON — Some say the system failed an 8 year-old boy found dead this week in a Houston motel.
Turns out, witnesses previously called police after noticing possible signs of child abuse.
“I asked him 'are you okay?'” Nahji Jackson said.
She recalled quizzing the abused looking boy as he tried to sell muffins outside a Food Town store on the last day of February.
"'Do you need to come with me? Do you want to talk with somebody?'" Jackson asked him. "And he wouldn’t say anything. And I knew right then and there something was seriously wrong.”
Jackson told KHOU 11 News she called Houston Police after noticing cuts and other wounds on the boys face, neck and ears.
And she recorded the encounter once officers showed up. But the boy and his mother told them he fell off a bike.
HPD contacted Child Protective Services and the physical abuse unit before leaving the scene.
The boy was found dead earlier this week.
"It doesn’t work, the system doesn’t work," said Jackson. "And we need to fix it as soon as possible because that child should be alive today and he’s not.”
The boy’s mother, 24-year-old Kayla Holzendorf, and her common-law husband, 28-year-old Dominique Lewis are currently charged with injury to a child and tampering with evidence.
Holzendorf allegedly admitted to hiding handcuffs and duct tape.
"There’s evidence of child torture in this case," said chief prosecutor Gilbert Sawtelle with the Harris County District Attorney's Child Fatality Division.
He said it appears police protocols were followed outside the supermarket and that CPS had prior contact with the family.
That's something the agency confirmed although specific details are confidential under state law.
"It’s not a one-time incident," said Sawtelle. "This child appears to have been tortured over a long period of time and kept out of public eye until it was too late and he was found dead.”
Most might say Jackson did her part by notifying authorities.
But she too feels some regret.
"Right now, I’m hurting because I feel like I could’ve done more for that little boy," said Jackson. "And to see him one day and weeks later he’s dead. You can imagine what I’m feeling right now.”
Full statement from Child Protective Services:
CPS had prior contact with the family, but specific details are confidential according to law so I’m unable to confirm when that contact occurred. However, after the investigation is complete a public form is available that may provide you with additional details.