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Police Release New Details on Audrii Cunningham and the Man Charged With Her Murder

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Investigators with the Texas Police Department have released new details about the murder suspect in the Audrii Cunningham case. According to police reports, the suspect, Don Steven McDougal, has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 2003.

A picture of Audrii Cunningham and her alleged killer
Source: nypost/X

Also, he has convictions for violent crimes and one for enticing a child, according to records in several Texas counties. In 2007, a court convicted McDougal of enticing a child in Brazoria County, Texas. According to court records, he pleaded no contest, and the court sentenced him to two years in prison. 

However, the court gave him credit for 527 days. While online records do not detail the specific allegations in the child enticement case, the state law defines the offense. According to the state, enticing a child is “the intent to interfere with the lawful custody of a child younger than 18 years.” 

In addition, a court also convicted McDougal in 2010 and 2019 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The victim in the 2010 aggravated assault case said McDougal was his former coworker. He claimed McDougal attacked him after he threw him out of his house. “He showed up with some other friends that I had,” the victim, Elic Bryan, said.

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Bryan claimed McDougal started stabbing the door before coming back inside. “He came at me with the knife, and I had my shotgun,” the victim recounted to CNN. “And I hit him in the face with it; I had no idea he was that kind of person.” According to reports, that aggravated assault case led to another four-year prison sentence for McDougal.

However, after his rough past and frequent run-ins with the law, McDougal started living in a trailer on the Cunninghams’ property. Investigators say McDougal agreed to take Audrii Cunningham to the bus stop on Thursday, February 15, 2024. However, that was the last time the parents saw their 11-year-old.

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Audrii Cunningham never made it onto the school bus or into her classroom in the small Texas town of Livingston. After an exhaustive, five-day search, authorities found the girl’s body in a river, tied to a rock. And McDougal, the family friend entrusted with taking her to the bus stop, is now facing capital murder charges.

In a criminal complaint, a sheriff’s deputy wrote that McDougal lied about his whereabouts and activities. “Video footage and cell phone data places McDougal at three locations of interest,” the complaint read. One of the locations include along the Trinity River, where authorities discovered the girl’s body.

After Audrii Cunningham didn’t come home from school on Thursday, her family reported her missing. Afterward, a massive search ensued, and the suspect joined in, Sheriff Byron Lyons said. However, the sheriff said he believes McDougal’s effort was an act.

ALSO READ: Local Authorities Discover Five Charred Bodies in Gang-Plagued Region of Southern Mexico

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On Friday, February 16, police arrested McDougal for an unrelated aggravated assault case. Hence, he remained in custody while authorities scoured for any sign of Audrii Cunningham. During the search, authorities found her red Hello Kitty backpack near Lake Livingston Dam, which is close to her home.

Four days later, Texas authorities discovered the 11-year-old girl’s body on Tuesday, February 20, in the Trinity River. According to the criminal complaint, they found a large rope tied to the girl’s body. “The rope used was consistent with a rope that was observed in McDougal’s vehicle on a traffic stop two days prior,” the court document states.

The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office will determine her cause of death. While authorities have not released a possible motive for the killing of Audrii Cunningham, they’re holding McDougal without bond for the capital murder charge.

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