A Former ‘Big Brother’ Finalist Was Arrested For Child Abuse & Strangulation

The outside of the Durant, Oklahoma, police department

KXII The outside of the Durant, Oklahoma, police department

Michael “Cowboy” Ellis was a finalist on Big Brother 5 back in 2004, finishing in second place to Drew Daniel. Since then, he has largely stayed out of the spotlight but is going to be featured on an episode of MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show that airs Tuesday, December 22.

In researching what he has been up to in preparation for his episode to air, Heavy learned that Ellis was arrested in 2019 for child abuse. Here’s what you need to know.

Ellis Had an Altercation With His Adopted Son and Claimed Self-Defense


According to KXII out of Sherman, Texas, Ellis was arrested in February 2019 for child abuse and strangulation during an altercation with his son, whom he adopted when he married the boy’s mother. The station reported at the time that the teenage boy told authorities Ellis forced him out of the house and threw him to the ground, chipping three teeth.

Ellis said it was self-defense, telling the station, “My son came at me, and for his protection, I detained him to protect myself, him, and my family.”

Police said Ellis left red marks and scratches on the boy’s neck when he choked the boy, something Ellis also denied.

“The scratches on the neck, he kicked in the door. So the only thing we can think is debris flew up, but I have so many witnesses in the house that I did not come close to his neck,” said Ellis, adding, “People have reached out to me, with hey I have gone through this mental health as well in my household. This is a situation where I can say I was innocent, this was a situation that was bound to probably happen because of mental health issues.”

In a separate interview with the Durant Democrat, Ellis said the 15-year-old was “out of control” and threatening him.

In the report made to Master Patrol Officer Russell Harkey, the teenage boy said he was doing his homework when he began to give his grandmother “a hard time” as a joke. Ellis then ordered him to leave, but the boy sat on his bed because he didn’t know where to go. Ellis then ordered him out of the house and they eventually got into a physical confrontation outside. Ellis said he pinned the boy down to keep him from hurting himself.

Ellis also said this has been an ongoing situation that he and his wife were working on with local officials because the boy had been in trouble at school.

“The mental health system in Oklahoma sucks,” Ellis said. “We’ve been through the ringer. We’ve done everything we possibly can to get help … I’m really embarrassed about this, but there’s always two sides to every story. We would ask any praying people to please pray for us as we go through this process.”

Ellis Said in a Statement That He Was Released With No Charges

Recently, due to him being in the news because of the Catfish episode, Ellis released a statement on Twitter about the incident.

“In regards to my arrest for ‘beating up my son,’ yes, I was arrested and released with no charges,” he wrote. “My son and I are fine, doing well and are close.”

Indeed, on Ellis’ Facebook wall, he and his son look like they have a good relationship. In a photo posted in November 2019, the two of them are standing together and smiling, posing in front of the Thunderbird Academy, which Ellis told the Durant Democrat he was hoping to enroll his son in after their incident. The academy is a military-style organization for at-risk teens, hoping to help set them straight before they get into serious trouble, according to the Democrat.

The Catfish episode featuring Ellis airs Tuesday, December 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on MTV. Big Brother 23 will return in the summer of 2021. Until then, we might get a new season of Big Brother Canada this winter/spring and there is talk of a winter edition of Celebrity Big Brother.

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