Audrii Cunningham's Cause of Death Released

Texas 11-year-old died of injuries including blunt head trauma
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2024 3:46 PM CST
Updated Feb 23, 2024 12:30 AM CST
Audrii Cunningham Suspect Charged With Capital Murder
This undated photo released by the Texas Dept. of Public Safety shows Audrii Cunningham.   (Texas Dept. of Public Safety via AP)
UPDATE Feb 23, 2024 12:30 AM CST

Audrii Cunningham, the 11-year-old Texas girl found dead in a river this week after vanishing last week, died of homicidal violence including blunt head trauma, the medical examiner's office said Thursday, per the AP. Family and friends remembered the fifth-grader at a vigil Wednesday night, CNN reports. "No matter where she went or who she met, she just made them light up," her aunt said. "She could always make you laugh, no matter what kind of mood you were in. It just isn't fair that we all got robbed of that."

Feb 21, 2024 3:46 PM CST

A friend of Audrii Cunningham's father has been charged with capital murder in the death of the 11-year-old Texas girl, whose body was found in a river on Tuesday. Jail records in Polk County, north of Houston, show that 42-year-old Don Steven McDougal has been charged with the murder of a person between the ages of 10 and 15, Fox News reports. Before Audrii's body was found in the Trinity River, McDougal, who was already in jail on an unrelated aggravated assault charge, was described as the main person of interest in her disappearance. He is being held without bond.

McDougal lived in a camper on the family's property in Livingston, and family members said he was supposed to take her to a school bus stop when they left in his vehicle on Thursday, the day she was last seen alive, according to court documents. He was arrested on the assault charge the next day. "Video footage and cell phone data places McDougal at three locations of interest," court documents state. The documents state that a large rock was tied around Audrii's body, and the "rope used was consistent with rope that was observed in McDougal's vehicle on a traffic stop two days prior," CNN reports.

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McDougal has been arrested dozens of times and was convicted on two child enticement charges in 2008, Fox reports. After Audrii was reported missing, her "Hello Kitty" backpack was found near the Lake Livingston dam at one of the state's largest reservoirs. Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons said Tuesday that the river authority slowed down the reservoir's outflow to help search teams in the water, the AP reports. (More Texas stories.)

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