Man accused of killing 19-year-old cellmate with special needs charged

Francis Akhalbey November 15, 2021
Michael Ownby (left) allegedly beat Fred Harris (right) to death -- Photo via ABC13

Authorities in Texas have brought charges against a White man accused of beating a 19-year-old special needs boy to death while he was sharing a cell with him. According to ABC13, the October 31 incident occurred at the Harris County Jail.

Authorities said the suspect, identified as Michael Ownby, 25, attacked Fred Harris unprovoked. The accused allegedly slammed Harris’ face on the cell’s concrete floor, kicked him, and also stabbed him with an eating utensil that had been sharpened. Ownby is taller than Harris and almost three times his size.

“This is heartbreaking. This is heartbreaking that he died alone, scared and had no one,” Amy Mendez, the mother of a boy who was friends with Harris, said. Following the attack, Harris was taken to a hospital where he later succumbed to his injures.

Mendez also said Harris had been staying with her at a certain point, but he later moved out to stay in the streets. “He was just a 13-year-old kid trapped in a 19-year-old body,” she said in reference to the deceased teen’s special needs condition.

Harris was taken into custody on October 11 on an aggravated assault charge after he allegedly threatened an acquaintance with a knife, FOX 26 Houston reported. The deceased teen was charged even though he never came within 10 feet of the person he threatened.

The victim reportedly refused to press charges, but the Houston Police still arrested Harris. The deceased teen’s bond was set at $20,000. Prior to his arrest, Harris had not had any run-ins with the law. Harris’ mother also wanted to secure guardianship over him, and she was waiting for the results of a court-ordered mental competency examination.

Ownby, on the other hand, was taken into custody on October 28 on an assault charge. Besides that, he also had a misdemeanor warrant for another case, ABC13 reported. Kirk Oncken, who was Harris’ appointed defense lawyer, said he had just got into contact with the deceased teen and was addressing his needs. He also voiced his concern about the nature of the killing.

“I’m surprised that somebody, who was in custody, was in possession of something like that,” Oncken said in reference to the weapon Ownby used. “It’s pretty shocking, pretty scary that something like that could happen in the county jail.

Authorities have since charged Ownby with murder. His bond is also set at $500,000.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 15, 2021


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