Bond denied for capital murder suspect in connection to 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham’s death

Charging docs show child’s body was tied to rock in Trinity River

POLK COUNTY, Texas – A family friend was charged with capital murder on Wednesday in connection to the death of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham.

Don Steven McDougal, 42, was charged with capital murder. According to court records, McDougal has been denied a bond.

The Livingston girl was at the center of an Amber Alert and had been missing for six days.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons confirmed investigators found Audrii’s body at the Trinity River Boat Ramp off U.S. 59 after lowering water levels.

Records show when the child’s body was recovered in Trinity Rover, law enforcement found a large rock tied to her body, using a rope like investigators saw in McDougal’s Suburban on a traffic stop two days prior to her death.

Investigators said McDougal, who is a convicted felon, lied about his whereabouts on the day Audrii disappeared last week.

A family friend shared the following statement from Audrii’s family with KPRC 2 reporter Bryce Newberry:

“The indescribable pain and overwhelming guilt that consumes a parent when they lose a young child is unimaginable. The tragic and horrific way in which Audrii was taken from us has left a void that can never be filled. A piece of Cassie’s soul was ripped away the moment she was murdered. Not only did Don Steven McDougal steal Cassie’s child’s life, but he also deprived the world of a truly beautiful and precious human being. The world will never be the same without her presence.”

Dear Lion Country, It is with tremendous sadness that I inform you of the death of our LISD 5th-grader, Audrii...

Posted by Livingston Independent School District on Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Audrii’s body will be transported to the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine what happened to her and the cause of death.

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety told KPRC 2 this case has now turned into a criminal investigation.

Several emergency vehicles were at the scene Tuesday morning, including officials from Liberty County, The Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas EquuSearch, and a dive unit from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

Caution tape was placed around the area and media was kept far away from the scene.

Lyons said they were able to locate Audrii’s body with the substantial amount of evidence provided by witnesses’ cellphone video, several points of interest provided by the person of interest and surveillance videos.

He said investigators also used evidence collected from cell phone analysis and information they received from McDougal.

“We start talking about how we link in evidence to McDougal and linking evidence to this case. We want to be very careful of how we do that and will feel safe to say there is substantial evidence through the evidence that we’ve gathered,” Lyons said. “And so that evidence was even gathered by the wonderful witnesses and wonderful folks out there in the social media who sent those videos, who sent those pictures. So that even that evidence helped us to be able to come up with these locations, as well as the evidence from cellphone videos.”

What happened

Audrii was reported missing on Thursday, Feb. 15, and investigators said Don Steven McDougal was likely the last person who saw her alive that day.

McDougal was named as the main person of interest in Audrii’s disappearance, although investigators said they haven’t ruled anyone out as a suspect. He is currently in the Polk County Jail.

Investigators said McDougal admitted to leaving the house with Audrii last Thursday morning, but he hasn’t said whether or not she made it to her school bus. But the sheriff said he provided some clues that led to them finding her body.

“He agreed to work with us and has taken us to certain locations,” Lyons said.

McDougal lived in a camper behind Audrii’s father and grandmother’s home and sometimes took her to the bus stop or school if she missed it.

“He was a friend of the family, a friend of the father, and he was allowed to live there in a trailer behind the house,” the sheriff said.

McDougal, who has a lengthy criminal history, was previously convicted of enticing a child in Brazoria County, records obtained by KPRC 2 show.

In March 2007, McDougal allegedly attempted to engage in sexual contact with a girl under the age of 17.

According to a grand jury indictment, McDougal removed another female from the bed where the victim was sleeping before he got in the bed with the victim and “(pulled) her pajama bottoms and panties down.”

A Brazoria County grand jury indicted him in July 2007 and his bond was set at $25,000 at the time.

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