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Desperate search under way for missing 11-year-old girl who vanished from bus stop

Desperate search under way for missing 11-year-old girl who vanished from bus stop

A man has been named a person of interest after investigators launched a desperate search into the disappearance of a young Texas girl who was on her way to school.

Audrii Cunningham, aged 11, was last seen at 7am on Thursday in Polk County near her home.

The young girl was supposed to have caught the school bus at her neighbourhood bus stop, yet school officials told police that the bus did not pick her up, nor did she arrive at school that day, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.

Investigators have identified 42-year-old Don Steven McDougal as a person of interest in the disappearance of the young girl. He was arrested on Friday by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office on an unrelated charge of aggravated assault.

Audrii’s mother, Cassie Matthews, said it would not be like her daughter to run off or disappear (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)
Audrii’s mother, Cassie Matthews, said it would not be like her daughter to run off or disappear (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

McDougal has been named by the Texas Department of Public Safety as they believe a dark blue 2003 Chevrolet Suburban belonging to McDougal was involved in the 11-year-old’s disappearance.

The department also added that a small backpack likely belonging to a child was located near Lake Livingston Dam. Multiple agencies have been involved in searching several locations to try and find the missing child.

Cassie Matthews, the missing girl’s mother, said to Click2Houston that it is not like her daughter to “run off or disappear,” adding that she has so many people around her who love and adore her.

Audrii Cunningham (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)
Audrii Cunningham (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Ms Matthews said that “hard is an understatement” for what she is experiencing right now.

“She has so many opportunities ahead of her, and she deserves every right to be able to reach those,” she told the outlet.

“I am not going to be the same unless my baby is returned to me, and neither is her family, any of us, any of her friends, any of the people that she has been connected to in the community.”

As of Sunday, authorities said that investigators are still looking at leads but they had no significant updates to report.

A picture of person of interest Don Steven McDougal was released by authorites (Texas Department of Public Safety - Southeast Texas Region)
A picture of person of interest Don Steven McDougal was released by authorites (Texas Department of Public Safety - Southeast Texas Region)

An Amber Alert issued by the Department of an abducted child describes Cunningham as a white female who is 4ft 1 inches tall, 75 lbs, with blue eyes and blonde hair.

She was wearing a black hoodie with white lettering, black pants and black high-top tennis shoes, and was last seen on the 100 block of Lakeside Drive in Livingston, Texas at 7am on Thursday.

She was also carrying a bright red Hello Kitty-style backpack, police said.

Polk County Crime Stoppers are now offering a $7,000 reward for information that can lead to the arrest and prosecution of the person responsible for Audrii’s disappearance.