Deadliest Catch: Whatever Happened To Elliott Neese?

Captain Elliott Neese first appeared in Season 7 of "Deadliest Catch," a Discovery reality TV series about the difficult king crabbing industry in Alaska's Bering Sea. But by Season 11, which aired in 2015, Neese chose to exit the show. 

Afterward, he continued to experience substance use issues and spent time in rehab. In 2019, Neese sold drugs to a confidential informant (CI). On December 6, 2021, he signed a deal in which he agreed to plead guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and face from five to 40 years in prison, Alaska Public Media reports. The court allowed him to continue working on fishing boats as long as he remained in "Alaskan waterways," and the next year, he appeared to be back at work in the industry, per a February 23, 2022 Instagram post.

In 2022, Neese was ultimately sentenced to 30 months at Sheridan Federal Prison in Oregon, according to legal documents obtained by Soap Dirt. As of August 2023, his release date was July 22, 2024, as listed on the Sheridan Federal Prison website. 

Arrest and prosecution

After his 2019 arrest, Elliott Neese reportedly told the police he was involved in a large narcotics trafficking operation on the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula. In the run-up to his 2022 trial, Neese (above, right) repeatedly failed drug tests for heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other substances, despite claiming he was clean. By June 2, 2022, he was declared a flight risk and taken back into custody.

Prosecutors recommended Neese be sentenced to five years and 10 months. Despite him reportedly being a small player in the criminal network, they noted the severity of drug use in the area — suggesting his crimes were nothing to scoff at. Meanwhile, the defense sought the minimum of five years, a fine, and probation, arguing that Neese's plea deal, age, and the fact this was his first felony justified the decision. His parents also petitioned the court for leniency in their son's sentencing.

A history of legal and personal issues

Elliott Neese's legal and personal issues are nothing new. In early 2012, the mother of his child, Valerie Gunderson, sought a restraining order against him over alleged text and phone harassment and substance use, per TMZ. And on "Deadliest Catch," he was often portrayed in a negative light — later that year he told GamerLive.TV that he didn't like how he was portrayed as the antagonist. "I like to see myself on TV but I'd like them to show me in a little better light ... I guess every show needs a villain. That's me for the time being," Neese said. He again complained about how he was being portrayed in a 2013 interview. "I feel like if they would just show the truth, things would be great," he told Mike Wilkerson for Blastzone Online. "It's like playing a game with somebody who already knows the outcome. They just twist and turn everything the way they want." 

Neese's substance use issues were mentioned while he was still a "Deadliest Catch" cast member, and he said in a May 13, 2015 tweet that he entered a 60-day rehab in Malibu. In 2017, two years after his Malibu rehab stint, the door seemed open for Elliott Neese's return to Discovery when "Catch" executive producer Decker Watson tweeted, "I stand by you 100% Elliott. I know that. I tried like hell to get you on 13 n u no how that turnd out. Maybe season 14." But in February 2017, Neese said in an Instagram post he was "90 days clean," suggesting that substance use issues continued.

A common issue with the cast

Elliott Neese isn't the only member of the "Deadliest Catch" cast to face substance use issues. Two cast members, Nick McGlashan and Mahlon Reyes, died from drug overdoses. Jake Harris, who left the show in 2012, similarly has a history of heroin use and run-ins with law enforcement and served state prison time from 2019 to 2021.

In 2011, Harris spoke to Dr. Drew Pinsky about his experiences with addiction, which stemmed back to his high school days (per People). "In high school I was a skater and it turned out I wasn't very good," he told the celebrity doctor. "I broke some limbs is how I got addicted to opiates." Harris notably revealed his addiction to his father on-camera while filming "Deadliest Catch." As for Reyes, the Daily Mail reported that his loved ones were concerned he had relapsed in the months prior to his cocaine overdose.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).