Cyntoia Brown Was Adopted at a Young Age — Who Are Her Biological Parents?

A new documentary about Cyntoia Brown dives into her early childhood, including information about her adopted and biological parents.

Abi Travis - Author

Apr. 22 2020, Updated 5:16 p.m. ET

cyntoia brown parents
Source: Netflix

Before November of 2017, most people probably hadn’t heard of Cyntoia Brown. But then, numerous high-profile celebrities (including Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, T.I., Snoop Dogg, and LeBron James) started tweeting about her, and Brown’s name was suddenly seen in headlines everywhere. Recently, her name has begun to make headlines once again — that’s because Netflix is releasing a documentary called Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story.

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The documentary will cover Brown’s 16-year-long battle with the justice system, from her being sentenced to life in prison as a teenager to her eventual release from prison in 2019. However, after watching the Murder to Mercy trailer, it seems as though the story won’t be focused solely on Brown’s legal battle. We’ll also find out some information regarding Brown’s early life, including learning about Cyntoia Brown’s parents, and the impact her early childhood had on her later actions.

cyntoia brown parents adoptive
Source: Netflix

Ellenette Brown, Brown’s adoptive mother

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Who are Cyntoia Brown’s parents?

Cyntoia Brown was born on Jan. 29, 1988. While her biological father is unknown, her biological mother (who gave birth to her at the age of 16) is named Georgina Mitchell. Mitchell testified that she drank a fifth of whiskey every day while she was pregnant with Brown. According to Brown’s defense attornies, Mitchell’s alcohol consumption caused Brown to be born with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. 

Murder to Mercy is not the first documentary detailing Brown’s life and legal battle. A 2011 PBS documentary called Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story also chronicled Brown’s early life. Footage in that documentary shows Brown’s grandmother claiming that Georgina Mitchell was a product of rape. In other words, Brown’s birth was part of a dark cycle of abuse going back three generations.

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Mitchell eventually placed her daughter up for adoption, and a woman named Ellenette Brown became the child’s adoptive mother. Ellenette appeared in the 2011 PBS documentary, speaking about her relationship with Brown. “No parent wants to think that their young daughter, you know, is experiencing sex,” Ellennette said. “[...] But it does not change how I feel. That is my daughter. She's always going to be my daughter. No matter what she does or have [sic] done."

cyntoia brown parents ellenette
Source: PBS
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Of course, Brown wasn’t merely “experiencing sex” — she was a victim of sex trafficking. In 2004, when Brown was 16 years old, she ran away from Ellenette’s home. She was then forced into prostitution by a 24-year-old man named Garion McGlothen. On Aug. 7, 2004, Brown shot and killed Johnny Michael Allen, a 43-year-old real estate agent who had hired her for sex.

Brown was tried in Tennessee courts as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. In 2017, after renewed interest in her case, her sentence was finally commuted to 15 years, resulting in Brown’s release in August of 2019.

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cyntoia brown parents adopted
Source: Netflix

After a childhood and young adulthood filled with abuse and tragedy, Brown chose to break the cycle of abuse and create a new life for herself — even before she was released from prison. While serving her sentence, she earned her GED, an associate degree in Liberal Arts from Lipscomb University, and a Bachelors of Professional Studies in Organizational Leadership, also from Lipscomb. She maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her studies.

Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story will be available to stream on Netflix starting April 29.

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