DA Makes Heartbreaking Announcement Leading to Capital Murder Charge

(UnitedVoice.com) – Authorities in Texas carried out a massive search for an 11-year-old girl who missed her school bus on Thursday, February 15. Sadly, the search has come to a heartbreaking end. The district attorney is eyeing capital murder charges for the man believed to have killed the child.

Heartbreaking Search and Recovery

On Friday, February 16, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release announcing the department was looking for Audrii Cunningham. The child was last seen near her home at around 7 a.m. when she left to catch the school bus. The bus driver did not pick the 11-year-old up that day, and she did not report to school. When Audrii didn’t return home that afternoon, someone alerted authorities, and they began to search.

The Texas Department of Public Safety Southeast Region updated the public on February 17, saying officers identified 42-year-old Don Steven McDougal, a man with a Swastika tattoo, as a person of interest. He was arrested on an unrelated charge. Authorities also stated a child’s backpack was discovered by the Lake Livingston Dam.

On Tuesday, Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons and District Attorney Shelly Bush-Sitton held a press conference announcing the discovery of Audrii’s body. Authorities found it in the Trinity River near her home.

Bush-Sitton told the public that the DA’s office was preparing to charge McDougal with capital murder. The suspect reportedly previously told police that he left the house with the little girl. He lived in a camper on the same property as Audrii and her father, Joshua Cunningham, grandparents, and other family members.

Lyons said that surveillance video, cellphone tracking data, and information provided by the suspect helped them find the child. Authorities did not provide further information on her cause of death.

According to reports, the suspect sometimes took the victim to school when she missed the bus. He had a criminal past but was not a sex offender. It’s not clear what the child’s family knew about him or how long they had known him.

Mom Speaks Out

In a heartbreaking Facebook post, reported by Daily Mail, Audrii’s mom, Cassie Matthews, said that she “failed” her daughter. She slammed people who were posting rumors online that she lost custody of her daughter. The grieving mother said that she did not lose custody. Instead, she accused her daughter’s father’s family of bullying her “into submission” and making her “believe [Audrii] was in a safe, loving, and normal home with her father.”

Audrii’s father has not responded to the claims made by his ex.

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