Suspect charged with Audrii Cunningham’s murder after missing girl’s body found in river

A suspect has been charged in the death of Audrii Cunningham after the 11-year-old’s body was found in a river in Texas on Tuesday.

Don Steven McDougal, 42, was charged with capital murder of a person equal to more than 10 years old but less than 15 years old, a day after the missing 11-year-old girl’s body was found in the Trinity River in Livingston, Texas, about 10 miles from her home.

Authorities said McDougal was already in custody on an unrelated aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge.

Cunningham’s body was found after she vanished on her way to school on 15 February around 7am.

She was allegedly heading for her school bus stop, but school officials told police that she was never picked up and that she never arrived at school.

McDougal was first named as a primary person of interest in the case before officials labeled him a suspect.

Audrii Cunningham, 11, vanished on 15 February

(Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Investigators believe he was a friend of Cunningham’s father, and was allowed to live in a trailer behind their Livingston house.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons said McDougal admitted to leaving the house with Cunningham the morning she disappeared but would not tell investigators what happened next.

Following Cunningham’s disappearance, the 42-year-old allegedly agreed to take investigators to several locations, including the Livingston Dam, where investigators discovered what they believe to be the girl’s backpack.

Sheriff Lyons added that investigators were being very cautious with the information McDougal gave them, but stressed that, at the time, he had not confessed to anything.

However, police now believe they have “enough evidence” to connect McDougal to Cunningham’s disappearance, according to sheriff Lyons.

During the press conference, the sheriff did not disclose the condition of the 11-year-old’s body, but revealed that officials had the Trinity River Authority lower water levels in order to find her body.

Authorities said her body is with the medical examiner’s office to determine her cause of death.

“My heart aches with the news, and I express my deepest sympathies and condolences,” sheriff Lyons said.

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