Man Accused of Murdering Audrii Cunningham Was Family Friend Who Participated in Search for Her: Sheriff

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Don Steven McDougal went around knocking on neighbors' doors during the initial search, police said, per CNN

<p>Montgomery County Jail; Polk County Sheriff

Montgomery County Jail; Polk County Sheriff's Office

Don Steven McDougal (L); Audrii Cunningham (R)
  • Police say they recovered Audrii Cunningham's body five days after her disappearance

  • Don Steven McDougal was charged with capital murder in connection to her death, per authorities

  • McDougal was a family friend who allegedly left the home with Audrii on the day of her disappearance, authorities told CNN

Authorities in Texas say that the man accused of murdering 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham was a family friend who closely followed the investigation into her disappearance and even participated in the search for her, according to multiple reports.

Don Steven McDougal, 42, who is charged with capital murder in connection with Audrii's death, lived in a trailer on the girl’s family’s property and had many prior interactions with her, CNN reported, citing authorities.

When Audrii was missing, McDougal participated in the initial search operation for her before his arrest last Friday on an unrelated charge, authorities said, according to CNN.

McDougal allegedly told authorities that he left the house with Audrii last Thursday morning but refused to give any further information, Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons said, according to ABC 13.

Audrii’s body was found on Tuesday.

Related: Body of Missing Texas 11-Year-Old Audrii Cunningham Found in Trinity River

Lyons said during a search operation to find Audrii, McDougal went around the neighborhood, knocking on doors and asking people if they’d seen the child, CNN reported.

“To me, it simply tells me is that he’s trying to give the appearances that he has no play or he’s not at fault in her disappearance and that [he’s] part of the concerned parties who were trying to locate her,” Lyons said, according to CNN. 

<p>Polk County Sheriff's Office</p> Audrii Cunningham

Polk County Sheriff's Office

Audrii Cunningham

Related: Man Previously Convicted of Child Enticement Is Now a Person of Interest in Disappearance of 11-Year-Old Girl

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In a charging document obtained and shared by NBC Houston, authorities claim they found Audrii’s body tied to a “large rock” with a rope that was “consistent” with rope found in the suspect's car days earlier.

McDougal has past convictions for enticement of a child, FOX 26, KHOU 11 and Click 2 Houston report, citing court records. It is unclear if McDougal has retained an attorney to speak on his behalf.

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