Houston Man Sentenced to 50 Years to Murdering His 19-year-old Cellmate

Houston Man Sentenced to 50 Years to Murdering His 19-year-old Cellmate
Michael Ownby

A 27-year-old Houston man, Michael Ownby, was sentenced to 50 years in prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty to the murder of his cellmate, 19-year-old Fred Harris, in the Harris County Jail in 2021. The announcement was made by Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

The murder occurred on October 29, 2021, when Ownby fatally beat Harris while in jail. Harris was transported to the hospital but succumbed to his injuries two days later.

Ownby’s murder trial began with jury selection on Monday, and he agreed to the 50-year prison sentence a day later. Despite expectations that his mental health would be a factor in the trial, Ownby’s defense attorney informed state District Judge Katherine Thomas that the defendant was mentally competent and not insane at the time of the crime.

Assistant District Attorneys Danielle Oxford and James Gordon, both chiefs in the DA’s office, prosecuted the case. Ogg expressed condolences for the family’s loss, stating, “This is an awful tragedy, and we mourn for the family’s loss of their loved one. This defendant took responsibility for what he did, and although nothing will ever bring the victim back, a 50-year prison sentence is a just result.”

As part of the guilty plea, Ownby waives the right to appeal the verdict or the sentence. He will be required to serve at least half of the 50-year term before being eligible for parole.