Audrii Cunningham died from 'homicidal violence with blunt head trauma,' records show

Audrii Cunningham, the 11-year-old missing Texas girl found dead in a river this week died as a result of "homicidal violence with blunt head trauma," according to records obtained by USA TODAY Friday.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Science reported Audrii's body was found in the Trinity River in the city of Shepherd located in San Jacinto County Texas.

Shepherd is about 17 miles south of Livingston in Polk County where the girl disappeared from her lakeside home the day after Valentine's Day. A portion of the Trinity River begins at Lake Livingston and flows south to Trinity Bay where it empties in the Gulf of Mexico.

An Amber Alert was issued on Feb. 15, 2024 for Audrii Cunningham, 11, of Livingston, Texas. Her body was found five days later in a local river.
An Amber Alert was issued on Feb. 15, 2024 for Audrii Cunningham, 11, of Livingston, Texas. Her body was found five days later in a local river.

On Tuesday, Polk County Sheriff' Byron Lyons announced divers found Audrii's body in the river along U.S. Highway 59 after the River Authority lowered the river water levels.

Autopsy was conducted Wednesday

The medical examiner's office listed her date of death as Feb. 20, the day her body was recovered from the water.

A spokesperson for the office told USA TODAY via email Audrii's autopsy was conducted Wednesday.

Although official autopsy and toxicology reports were still pending Friday, the spokesperson said the coroner determined Audrii's manner of death to be homicide.

McDougal's violent criminal history: Suspect in Audrii Cunningham killing was previously accused of sex crime involving 10 year old

Don McDougal remains jailed on capital murder

Don Steven McDougal, 42, remained jailed in Polk County Friday without bond on a capital murder charge in connection to Audrii's death, online records showed.

Law enforcement said they were able to zero in on the location of Audrii's body using cellphone records, videos and information they received from McDougal, the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network reported.

The Livingston girl was initially reported missing on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 15, when she did not get on the school bus or report to school.

Audrii Cunningham case timeline: From her disappearance to suspect's arrest

What is homicidal violence?

The state of Texas uses two definitions for criminal homicide:

  • A person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.

  • Criminal homicide is murder, capital murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide.

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at and follow her on X @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Audrii Cunningham's cause of death due to blunt head trauma: autopsy