Family friend charged with capital murder of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham joined search for her claiming “I’m not guilty”

The man charged with the murder of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham, whose body was found in a river earlier this week, five days after she disappeared in Texas, helped during the search to locate her, all the while claiming his innocence.

According to disturbing new reports, Don Steven McDougal, 42, was knocking on doors and asking local residents if they had seen Audrii as the search got underway following her failure to show up for school on February 15.

Audrii’s body was ultimately found in the Trinity River in Livingston, Pole County, with McDougal since charged with first-degree murder in connection with her death.

As per PEOPLE, authorities claimed in a charging document that they had found Audrii’s body tied to a “large rock” with a rope “consistent” with one found in the suspect’s car days before.

According to Fox News, the 11-year-old should have boarded her school bus on the morning of February 15, but never made it on the bus or to school that day.

McDougal was arrested last Friday on unrelated charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. At that time, authorities gave him “several opportunities to cooperate” with their investigation into Audrii’s disappearance, explained Lt. Craig Cummings, with the Texas Department of Public Safety in Southeast Texas.

Don Steven McDougal to be charged with Capital Murder for the death of 11 year old #AudriiCunningham who’s been missing…

Posted by The Arkansas Justice Project on Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Police now say that McDougal – a reported family friend who lived in a trailer behind Audrii’s father’s residence – offered his help during the initial search for Audrii after she was reported as missing.

“Some of the witnesses have even said that he was in the community and knocking on doors … asking have they seen her,” the sheriff told CNN.

“To me, it simply tells me is that he’s trying to give the appearance 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.”

McDougal is also said to have posted “I’m not guilty” on a Facebook page called “True Crime Society”.

Audrii Cunningham. Credit: / Polk County Sheriff’s Office TX, Sheriff Byron Lyons

“I was there and was questioned. I am not running or hiding,” the suspect wrote. “I have done everything I can to help find her. I have done nothing wrong.”

He added in another comment: “I am the one that went and knocked on the houses by the bus stop to get video footage.”

Citing court records, Click 2 Houston reported that McDougal has numerous past convictions, including one for enticement of a child.

Rest in peace, Audrii Cunningham.


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