Charges filed against Harris County inmate who violently beat, killed 19-year-old cellmate, DA says

Michael Ownby, 25, is accused of killing Fred Harris, 19, in a holding cell at the Harris County Jail. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – A Harris County inmate who was involved in a physical altercation that led to the death of his 19-year-old cellmate has been charged with murder, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said.

According to court documents, on Oct. 29, Michael Paul Ownby, 25, allegedly struck inmate Fred Harris, 19, in the head with his foot, smashed his head numerous times on the concrete floor, and stabbed him to death with a “sharpened eating utensil.” Harris was pronounced dead two days later at Ben Taub Hospital.

Harris and Ownby were put together in a cell on the third floor of the Baker Street jail facility prior to the incident, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

RELATED: 19-year-old man dies while in Harris County Jail after fight with another inmate, HCSO confirms

A balloon release will be held at Quail Green West Park, located at 1802 Freshmeadow Dr. in Missouri City on Saturday at 4 p.m.

His family attorney, Randall Kallinen, says his death would have been preventable. He is calling on the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Harris County Commissioners Court to release evidence video of how the fight happened.

Harris was booked into the county jail last month for aggravated assault charges while Ownby was booked on numerous charges, including assault on a public servant and evading arrest, according to a news conference on Nov. 3. Kallinen says Harris was an individual with special needs who weighed 98 pounds, and Ownby weighed 240 pounds.

“Sheriff Gonzalez and the Harris County Commissioners Court have put inmates and staff at high risk due to failure to address problems at the Harris County Jail,” Attorney Kallinen says. “This is bound to happen again unless we get the evidence.”

Attorney Kallinen says Harris’ heart and organs were donated as a way “to help others.”

RELATED: ‘He danced his way into everyone’s heart’: Family wants justice after 19-year-old with special needs killed in Harris County Jail

About the Author:

A graduate of the University of Houston-Downtown, Ana moved to H-Town from sunny southern California in 2015. In 2020, she joined the KPRC 2 digital team as an intern. Ana is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, a catmom of 2, and an aquarium enthusiast. In her spare time, she's an avid video gamer and loves to travel.