Missing Texas Girl Audrii Cunningham Discovered Deceased in River, Suspect Faces Potential Capital Murder Charges

GOLDEN, CO - JULY 1: Crime scene tape is pulled across access to Clear Creek warning people that the river is currently closed to recreation on July 1, 2019 in Golden, Colorado.

Tragic news as Audrii Cunningham, the missing girl from Texas, was discovered deceased on Tuesday afternoon.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons confirmed that the 11-year-old’s body was discovered in the Trinity River near the US Highway 59 bridge in Livingston.

“We will keep working on analyzing the evidence collected to make sure Audrii gets the justice she deserves,” stated Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons.

Shelly Sitton, the Polk County District Attorney, announced that her office is in the process of obtaining arrest warrants for Don Steven McDougal, 42, in relation to Cunningham’s Feb. 15 disappearance. They are considering capital murder charges. 

According to Lt. Craig Cummings, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety in Southeast Texas, McDougal was given “several opportunities to cooperate” with their investigation into Audrii’s disappearance after being detained on Friday on unrelated charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

At the press conference on Monday, Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons stated of McDougal, “He was probably taking her to…the bus stop, and we do feel that he was the last person to see Audrii.” Lyons also mentioned that McDougal would take Audrii to the bus stop on “some occasions” and even to school if she missed the bus.

Lyons emphasized the importance of not making assumptions as his office focuses on constructing a solid criminal case.

An 11-year-old girl was expected to board her school bus on the morning of Feb. 15, but she was last seen at her residence in the 100 block of Lakeside Drive, in Polk County, Texas. However, she did not get on the bus or attend school that day, according to officials.

McDougal resided in a camper behind the home where Audrii lived with her father, grandparents, and other family members, according to Cummings. Cassie Matthews, Audrii’s mother, shared with FOX 26 Houston that she thought McDougal would look after the 11-year-old girl during his stay at her father’s house.

Investigators are working to reconstruct McDougal’s activities on the morning of Feb. 15. McDougal agreed to reveal specific locations to investigators following his arrest, according to Lyons.

Statewide Amber Alert for Audrii, Suspect With Criminal History; $10,000 Reward Offered

RIVERSIDE, CA – SEPTEMBER 11, 2023: A police officer stands next to an Ontario police vehicle with front end damage after a police pursuit involving a stolen big rig ends up on a bike trail near Market Street in on September 11, 2023 in Riverside, California.


An Amber Alert was issued across the entire state on February 16th. Lyons later mentioned that there is a strong chance that a backpack found in a wooded area near the Livingston Dam belonged to Audrii.

McDougal has a long history of criminal activity that goes back to the early 2000s. From enticing a child in Brazoria County in 2008 to assaulting a family member and evading arrest in Liberty County, he faces a wide range of charges, including numerous other offenses.

Authorities are requesting the public to provide any video footage of FM 3126 in Polk County between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 15.

Officials are providing a $10,000 reward for any details that could assist in apprehending the individual accountable for Audrii’s disappearance.

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