11-year-old who went missing from southeast Texas found dead in river, arrest made

An 11-year-old girl from southeast Texas who went missing Thursday was found dead in a river near Livingston, Texas, according to a report by KHOU-TV.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office issued an Amber Alert for Audrii Cunningham on Thursday night after she had last been seen that morning.

Search crews located her body on Tuesday in the Trinity River on U.S. Highway 59 near Livingston, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office told KHOU.

An arrest warrant has been issued for 42-year-old Don Steven McDougal, according to the report. On Saturday, the Texas Department of Public Safety identified McDougal as a person of interest in Cunningham’s disappearance, Star-Telegram media partner WFAA-TV reported.

McDougal is already in custody as he was arrested Friday and booked into the Polk County Jail on assault charges unrelated to the child’s abduction.

Investigators found a backpack on Friday at the dam of Lake Livingston that authorities said was consistent with the one belonging to Cunningham, according to WFAA.

McDougal, who is facing a capital murder charge, is a family friend who lives in a camper behind the home where Cunningham lived with her father and other family members, according to KHOU. He is believed to be the last person who saw her, as Cunnginham went missing at about 6:45 a.m Thursday. Investigators learned the girl never made it on the bus that morning to take her to school, according to KHOU.

The Trinity River Authority had to lower water levels so authorities could search for Cunningham’s body, KHOU reported.

Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons said McDougal admitted to leaving the house with Audrii on Thursday morning but did not tell investigators if she made it to the bus stop, according to KHOU. McDougal would sometimes take the girl to the bus stop or drive her to school if she missed the bus, the report says.

Lyons also said McDougal worked with investigators and took them to certain locations, but did not confess to anything about Audrii’s disappearance, KHOU reported.

The child’s body was taken to the medical examiner’s office to determine the cause of death.