Missing 11-year-old's body found in Texas river: Police

A person of interest has been in police custody since Friday.

February 20, 2024, 5:44 PM

Investigators said Tuesday that they have found the body of an 11-year-old Texas girl who went missing last week when she missed her bus to school.

Audrii Cunningham was last seen on the morning of Feb. 15 near her father's home in Livingston, Texas, at about 7 a.m., according to authorities. She did not take her bus to school that morning.

Her body was discovered near the Trinity River, according to Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons.

"My heart aches with this news," he told reporters.

PHOTO: Audrii Cunningham is seen in this undated photo released by Texas Police following her disappearance.
Audrii Cunningham is seen in this undated photo released by Texas Police following her disappearance.
Polk County Sheriff's Office via Facebook

Lyons said that the medical examiner is working to determine the girl's cause of death.

A statewide Amber Alert was issued on Feb. 15.

PHOTO: Police search for clues in their investigation into the disappearance of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham.
Police search for clues in their investigation into the disappearance of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham.
KTRK

Don Steven McDougal, a friend of Audrii's father, was named by investigators as a person of interest. McDougal, who lives in a camper located behind Audrii's house, allegedly promised to take Audrii to her bus stop and was the last person to see her, according to Lyons.

Lyons said there had been reports that McDougal had dropped the girl off at the bus stop in the past.

McDougal was arrested on an unrelated aggravated assault charge Friday, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. He has an extensive criminal history, including enticing a minor in 2008.

PHOTO: Texas investigators have identified 42-year-old Don Steven McDougal, of Livingston, Texas, as one of the persons of interest in the disappearance of Audrii Cunningham.
Texas investigators have identified 42-year-old Don Steven McDougal, of Livingston, Texas, as one of the persons of interest in the disappearance of Audrii Cunningham.
Texas DPS - Southeast Texas Region

Polk County, Texas District Attorney Shelly Bush-Sitton told reporters that an arrest warrant is being prepared against McDougal and he will be charged with capital murder.

Lyons said investigators worked off information from several sources, including McDougal, to pinpoint locations where the girl would be.

The investigators contacted Trinity River Authority to slow the water outflow from the nearby reservoir, and Audrii's body became visible to search teams, the sheriff said.

"It is with tremendous sadness that I inform you of the death of our LISD 5th-grader, Audrii Cunningham. While the details of this tragedy are still unfolding, our hearts go out to the entire community during this heartbreaking loss," said Dr. Brent Hawkins, superintendent of Livingston Independent School District.

"Please keep Audrii’s family, teachers, friends, and community in your thoughts and prayers as they grieve this tragic loss."

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