Audrii Cunningham found dead: Don Steven McDougal charged with capital murder

A suspect has been charged in the death of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham, whose body was found in the Trinity River five days after she was reported missing from her Livingston-area neighborhood.

According to jail records, Don Steven McDougal, 42, has been charged with capital murder and has been denied bond. 

RELATED: Missing 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham found dead in Trinity River

According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, McDougal has been in a single cell, by himself, since his arrest and has not had any contact with other inmates,

McDougal is being closely monitored by jail staff and has not been threatened and he has not experienced or sustained any injuries since his incarceration in the Polk County Jail, authorities say.


Don Steven McDougal, 42

An Amber Alert was issued for Cunningham on Thursday, after she didn’t get on the school bus that morning and didn’t make it to school.

On Saturday, authorities announced that McDougal was being considered a person of interest in the case. He had been taken into custody on Friday for an unrelated aggravated assault charge.

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Authorities say McDougal was a friend of the family who lived in a camper behind the house where Cunningham lived with her father, grandparents, and other family.

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According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, McDougal would occasionally drop her off at the bus stop or take her to school if she missed the bus.

During a press conference on Monday, Sheriff Byron Lyons said McDougal admitted to leaving with Cunningham on Thursday morning but wouldn’t acknowledge if she ever made it to the bus stop. However, the sheriff said McDougal was believed to have been the last one to see her.

MORE: Timeline of Audrii Cunningham's disappearance

RELATED: Suspect confesses leaving home with 11-year-old the day of disappearance

After Cunningham was reported missing, a large search effort was launched with several local and state law enforcement agencies.

During the search, the sheriff said they were trying to piece together a timeline of where McDougal had been and were searching those areas.

Crews focused on areas near Lake Livingston and the Trinity River for days.

On Tuesday, authorities made a heartbreaking discovery. The sheriff’s office announced that crews had located the girl’s body in the Trinity River along US-59 near Livingston.

Law enforcement officials said cellphone analysis, videos collected during the investigation, and information from McDougal himself led to the discovery. Police claim they would have found her body even without information from McDougal. According to charging documents, authorities were able to determine McDougal lied about his whereabouts on February 15 through evidence as well, which placed him at three locations of interest. 

Two days before Audrii's disappearance, McDougal was pulled over, and evidence found near the river was consistent with what was inside his car.

An autopsy will determine her cause of death.

SUGGESTED: Criminal history of man facing charges in Audrii Cunningham's death

Following the discovery, Polk County District Attorney Shelly Sitton announced that based on the evidence, an arrest warrant was in progress for McDougal, and he would be facing a capital murder charge. That means he will be eligible for the death penalty.

McDougal has a lengthy criminal history going back to 2001. His charges range from theft to evading - the most notable being convicted of two counts of enticement of a child in 2008. Court documents indicate McDougal was sentenced to two years for each count.