Missing Audrii Cunningham: Person of interest confesses leaving home with girl day of disappearance

The search for 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham, who failed to board her school bus last Thursday morning in the Livingston area, continues to intensify. 

 UPDATE: Audrii Cunningham's body was found in the Trinity River near Livingston on February 20.

Officials, including the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), held a press conference at the Polk County Judicial Center in Livingston on Monday, shedding light on new details surrounding the young girl's disappearance. 

Don Steven McDougal, 42, a person of interest in Audrii's disappearance, has been cooperating to some extent with investigators, according to Polk County officials. 

 However, authorities emphasize that they are covering all angles and exploring other potential suspects. McDougal admitted to authorities to leaving the house with Audrii on the day she went missing. 

RELATED: Texas Amber Alert: Missing Audrii Cunningham from Livingston didn't get on school bus

Officials say McDougal was a friend of Audrii's father and was allowed to live in a trailer behind their house and also take her to school from time to time.

McDougal's cooperation has led investigators to certain locations during the time of Audrii's disappearance.  TxDPS officials say details remain undisclosed to the public to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

SUGGESTED: Texas Amber Alert: Missing Audrii Cunningham from Livingston didn't get on school bus

"We feel strongly that the backpack found is hers," said TxDPS authorities. They highlighted one of the key pieces of evidence in the case. The investigation is now classified as a criminal investigation, with authorities stressing that charges are neither being added nor removed at this time.

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McDougal is believed to have been the last person seen with Audrii before her disappearance. "We have taken him to certain locations to gather information about his whereabouts during the time of Audrii's disappearance," officials stated, emphasizing the importance of establishing a comprehensive timeline of events.

Audrii is believed to have gone missing at 6:45 pm, and authorities are hopeful that she will be found. 

TXDPS officials also said "McDougal was arrested on Saturday after confessing to assaulting a male following an argument," officials revealed, indicating that McDougal had been cooperative to some extent. There are also rumors circulating that McDougal may be affiliated with a Neo-Nazi group, Aryan Brotherhood, although this has not been confirmed.

As the search for Audrii Cunningham continues, authorities urge anyone with information to come forward.   Polk County officials said if you have any information on where Audrii is, contact the Polk County Sheriff's Office at (936) 327-6810 or call 911. 


The search continues Monday for a missing 11-year-old girl who didn't get on the school bus in her Livingston-area neighborhood on Thursday morning.

An Amber Alert remains in effect for Audrii Cunningham following a large search effort over the weekend.

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According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Audrii was reported to have last been seen around 7 a.m. Thursday near her home in the 100 block of Lakeside Drive. Authorities say she was supposed to have caught the school bus in her neighborhood, but she never got on the bus or made it to school.

DETAILS: Amber Alert issued for missing Texas girl Audrii Cunningham

Her disappearance has prompted a search by several local and state agencies. The search for Audrii has been centered around a location off of FM 3278 near Lake Livingston, as well as the Trinity River.

Texas DPS did say that a child’s backpack was located near Lake Livingston Dam over the weekend, but they did not confirm if it belongs to Audrii.

RELATED: Prayer service held Sunday in honor of missing 11-year-old

No one has been charged in the girl’s disappearance, but police did identify a man – 42-year-old Don Steven McDougal – as a person of interest. He was taken into custody Friday on an unrelated assault charge. McDougal received a $500,000 bond for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge. 

RELATED: New video captures person of interest seen days after 11-year-old's disappearance

Texas DPS also has his vehicle and are asking anyone with video footage of the dark blue 2003 Chevrolet Suburban from Thursday or Friday to submit a tip to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities haven't confirmed McDougal's connection to the case, but Audrii's mother – Cassie Matthews – says she believes McDougal is friends with Audrii's father.

She says Audrii's dad would have McDougal living on the property with them and would babysit Audrii, all information she says she found out after her disappearance. 

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Audrii Cunningham (Photo: Polk County Sheriff's Office)

Audrii is described as a white female, 4'1" tall, 75 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing a black hoodie with white lettering, black pants, and black high-top tennis shoes. She had a bright red "Hello Kitty" backpack.

McDougal received a $500,000 bond for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge. 

The Polk County Crime Stoppers is offering a $7,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person responsible for Audrii’s disappearance. Tips, and anonymous tips, can be reported to 936-327-STOP or www.polkcountycs.org.