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Charges upgraded to murder in death of Harris County inmate with special needs

Michael Paul Ownby, 25, is accused of attacking another inmate, Fred Harris, while the two were in custody in October.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Charges have been upgraded against a Harris County inmate accused of brutally beating a teen with special needs while they were both in jail.

Michael Paul Ownby, 25, is charged with murder in the death of Fred Harris, 19. The suspect was denied bond Thursday in the case.

Harris was inside the jail when another inmate more than twice his size stabbed, kicked and beat him on Oct. 29, the victim's family attorney Randall Kallinen said.

Editor's Note: The above video was originally published Nov. 3, 2021.

Harris was hospitalized with fatal injuries. The teen was only 98 pounds at the time of his death. Kallinen said the teen's organs were donated a few days later.

Ownby was initially charged with aggravated assault with severe bodily injury after the incident.

RELATED: Mom wants answers after teen with special needs stabbed, beaten at Harris County Jail

Harris was in jail because he showed a knife to someone he was afraid of, the attorney said. The family attorney said the teen had never been in trouble before and was a well-liked special education student when he attended Stratford High School.

Kallinen said inmates and staff at the jail are at high risk because of overcrowding and staffing issues. He's representing deputies and jailers in a federal lawsuit against Harris County, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

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