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Thursday April 18, 2024

Family friend charged with capital murder in Audrii Cunningham case

Friend of Audrii Cunningham's father has been charged with her murder

By Web Desk
February 22, 2024
Audrii Cunningham was killed and her body was found from the Trinity River. — New York Daily News
Audrii Cunningham was killed and her body was found from the Trinity River. — New York Daily News

A day after Audrii Cunningham's body was recovered, a man identified as a family friend has been charged with capital murder in connection with the tragic events surrounding the disappearance and death of 11-year-old girl.

Audrii, last seen on February 15, carrying her distinctive "Hello Kitty" backpack, sparked an intensive search effort when she failed to make it to the school bus and never arrived at class. 

An extensive search effort led to the discovery of Audrii's lifeless body in the Trinity River, situated just south of her hometown of Livingston, about 10 miles from her residence. 

Living in a trailer behind the Cunningham family home, 42-year-old Don Steven McDougal was reportedly a friend of Audrii's father. Authorities believe that McDougal was likely the last person to have seen Audrii alive. 

Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons shared insights into McDougal's actions during the search, suggesting a deceptive facade. The suspect had actively participated in efforts to locate Audrii, knocking on doors and attempting to portray himself as part of the concerned individuals.

McDougal's arrest on unrelated charges of aggravated assault raises further concerns about his background. Previous allegations against him in Brazoria County, including attempted indecency with a child, paint a troubling picture of the suspect's history.

A large rock tied to her body with a rope points to a sinister aspect of the crime, highlighting the need for a thorough investigation.

As the investigation unfolds, substantial evidence, including cellphone data and consistent rope found in McDougal's vehicle, suggests his involvement in Audrii's murder. The backpack resembling Audrii’s found near the Lake Livingston dam played a crucial role in leading authorities to McDougal.

The Harris County medical examiner’s office in Houston is tasked with determining the cause of Audrii's death. The legal proceedings against McDougal aim to bring justice for the young life cut short.