Texas: Person Of Interest Identified In Case Of Missing 11-Year-Old Girl

Person of interest identified in case of 11-year-old missing Texas girl (Polk County Sheriff's Office)
Don Steven McDougal, 42, person of interest identified in case of 11-year-old missing Texas girl. (Photo via: Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
1:30 PM – Monday, February 19, 2024

Texas officials have been searching for 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham who went missing on Thursday after she reportedly did not get on her school bus. The girl’s “Hello Kitty” backpack was discovered close to a reservoir, serving as evidence.


At 7 a.m. local time on Thursday, Cunningham was last seen in the vicinity of her home in Polk County, Texas. She was supposed to board a school bus that morning, but failed to do so and did not appear at class that day, according to a statement from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

An AMBER Alert has been issued for Cunningham throughout the state of Texas. Her search is being referred to as a “all-hands-on-deck investigation” by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

The missing girl was described to be “White, standing [at] four feet and one inch tall, with blonde hair and blue eyes.” The attire that she was last seen wearing consisted of “black tennis shoes, black pants, and a black hoodie with white lettering.”

On Sunday, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced in a news release that a person of interest has finally been identified in the disappearance of the 11-year-old girl.

During a news briefing, Lt. Craig Cummings of the Texas DPS declared that Don Steven McDougal, 42, was taken into custody on an “unrelated charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon” and is currently being held in jail in Polk County.

McDougal was detained on Friday on suspicion of aggravated assault in a separate incident, according to the authorities. He has now been identified as “one of the persons of interest” in the case by the DPS for the Southeast Texas region.

According to the state agency statement, investigators believe that the girl’s disappearance was in connection to a “dark blue 2003 Chevrolet Suburban,” and they are pleading with everyone who witnessed the vehicle on Thursday or Friday to report the incident to police.

The statement additionally said that a small backpack believed to belong to the young girl was discovered near the Cunningham family’s residence at the Lake Livingston Dam.

A press conference has been set for 2:30 p.m. local time on Monday by the authorities to go over additional updates in the hunt for the 11-year-old Texas girl.

Several officers, including state troopers, Polk County deputies, San Jacinto County deputies, first responders from other agencies, and the FBI are currently involved in the search.

Authorities reported at a press conference on Monday afternoon that McDougal resides in a trailer beside the house Audrii shares with her family. According to authorities, McDougal was a family acquaintance who occasionally drove Audrii to school or to the bus stop.

“The focus right now is on bringing Audrii home,” Lt. Craig Cummings said. “The family has been very cooperative. Everybody here, the entire community here, has been nothing but cooperative and helpful. Our prayers collectively are that we bring Audrii home soon.”

Those with information about the case are encouraged to contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 936-327-6810. Tips can be submitted anonymously via the Polk County Crime Stoppers line at 936-327-7867 or online at p3tips.com or iwatchtx.org.

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