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Authorities find remains of Audrii Cunningham

Fox News chief correspondent Jonathan Hunt has the latest on the Audrii Cunningham case on ‘Special Report.’

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Audrii Cunningham, the 11-year-old Texas girl who missed her school bus last week and was found dead in a river on Tuesday, died from blunt force trauma.

The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office said the death was described as “homicidal violence” and her manner of death has been ruled a homicide following an autopsy, according to Fox 26 Houston.

Fox News Digital has reached out to the agency. 

An Amber Alert was issued for Cunningham after she failed to board the school bus on Feb. 15 and did not attend school.


Audrii Cunningham

Audrii Cunningham was supposed to get on her school bus on Feb. 15 but never made it, authorities said. (Polk County sheriff)

She was found dead in a river on Tuesday and had a “large rock” tied to her body, authorities said. Officials have charged Don Steven McDougal, 42, with capital murder of a person between the ages of 10 and 15.

“The rope used was consistent with rope that was observed in [suspect Don] McDougal’s vehicle on a traffic stop two days prior,” charging documents state.

McDougal, a family friend who lived in a trailer behind Cunningham’s residence in Livingston, was initially taken into custody on Feb. 16 on an unrelated charge of aggravated assault.

A split image of Don Steven McDougal's mugshot and Audrii Cunningham

Texas authorities named Don Steven McDougal as a person of interest in connection with the Feb. 15 disappearance of Audrii Cunningham. (Polk County Sheriff/ Facebook)

He was tied to three locations of interest through cellphone data, investigators said. Cunningham was tied to two of those locations, including the Trinity River near the US Highway 59 bridge in Livingston, where she was found dead.

McDougal has a criminal history dating back to the early 2000s, when he was accused of dozens of crimes, and was convicted on two child enticement charges in 2008.

“He was probably taking her to… the bus stop, and we do feel that he was the last person to see Audrii,” Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons said of McDougal during a Monday press conference, adding that there were “some occasions” when McDougal would take Cunningham to the bus stop or even to school if she missed the bus.

Don Steven McDougal's mugshot beside a sreecnshot of his criminal record in Liberty County, Texas

Don Steven McDougal has a lengthy criminal record dating back to the early 2000s.  (Liberty County)


Lyons said McDougal admitted to leaving with Cunningham on Thursday morning but didn’t confirm if she boarded the bus to school. 

Fox News Digital’s Audrey Conklin contributed to this report. 

Louis Casiano is a reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to [email protected].

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