What happened to Audrey Cunningham, the girl who disappeared in Texas after leaving her home to go to school, and what do we know?

What happened to Audrey Cunningham, the girl who disappeared in Texas after leaving her home to go to school, and what do we know?

(CNN) — The only trace in the disappearance of Audrey Cunningham, a girl just 11 years old, could be the red “Hello Kitty” backpack she had to take with her to school.

Cunningham disappeared after leaving her home to catch the school bus on Thursday morning, February 15, in the small East Texas town of Livingston, about 70 miles northeast of Houston.

He stated that Audrey never took the bus Polk County Sheriff's Office. However, the entity said: “A small backpack that may have belonged to a minor was found near the Lake Livingston Dam.”

The sheriff's office said it now believes the man arrested in an unrelated aggravated assault case is “one of the persons of interest involved in the disappearance” of the girl. This man had participated in the search for the girl on the day she disappeared, according to the sheriff of Polk County, Texas.

However, Cunningham's whereabouts currently remain a mystery.

Audrey cunningham polk texas

Audrey Cunningham. (Credit: Polk County Sheriff's Office)

This is what we know about the case so far.

He did not come to school that day

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said Audrey Cunningham was last seen around 7 a.m. Thursday near her home on Lakeside Drive.

The house is located near Lake Livingston, “one of the largest reservoirs in the state, with a surface area of ​​more than 335 square kilometers,” according to the agency. Texas Parks and Wildlife. “The lake is a reservoir for the Trinity River and supplies water to the city of Houston and other cities in East Texas,” the entity added.

According to the Sheriff's Office, “Audrey should have taken the school bus at her neighborhood stop. However, school officials informed the Sheriff's Office that the school bus did not pick up Audrey, and she did not show up to school.”

Audrey's family reported him missing after he did not return home from school. A multi-agency search was activated, including the Texas Rangers, Texas Department of Public Safety, Livingston Police Department, Texas State Guard and several local fire departments, the sheriff's office said.

Maybe they found his bag

A small backpack, possibly belonging to a juvenile, was found Friday near the Lake Livingston Dam, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said.

Earlier, authorities said Audrey was carrying a red backpack bearing the words “Hello Kitty.”

However, the sheriff's office said the investigation “remains active and ongoing.”

Audrey Cunningham

Authorities are searching for Audrey Cunningham, the 11-year-old girl from Texas who disappeared on Thursday, February 15, in Polk County. (Credit: Kho)

The concerned person participated in the search for the girl. Sharif believes he did it to “appear.”

A family friend identified by investigators as a person of interest in Audrey Cunningham's disappearance was involved in the search for the girl on the day she disappeared, according to the Polk County, Texas, sheriff.

“Even some witnesses said he was out there knocking on doors… asking, 'Did you see her?'” Sheriff Byron Lyons told CNN.

Don Steven McDougal was arrested Friday in an unrelated case and has not been charged in connection with Cunningham's disappearance. The sheriff says McDougal's participation in the search gave him no reason to exempt him from the Cunningham investigation.

“To me, this just indicates that he's trying to give the appearance that he's not responsible for her disappearance, and that's why he got involved with the crews that were trying to locate her,” Lyons said.

Asked if he believed the search efforts exonerated McDougal, Lyons replied: “No. No, I don't think so. I think he's the first person we care about.”

Lyons says McDougall and Audrey left the house toward the bus station the day she disappeared. McDougall lives in a caravan on an estate owned by Audrey's family.

The sheriff's office said the 42-year-old is a “person of interest involved in the disappearance” and investigators believe his dark blue 2003 Chevrolet Suburban was involved in the disappearance.

“This is the thing you see on TV.”

Audrey Cunningham's mother, Cassie Matthews, said she always hurt for the parents of missing children she heard about through the news.

“This is the kind of thing you see on TV, and you can only imagine what the family and the parents are going through.” Matthews told CNN affiliate KPRC.

And now she is one of those parents.

“There are no words to describe it. There is not one feeling. It's a rollercoaster. You're broken, you're angry, you're empty. And now, I'm empty,” Matthews said.

“He has a lot of opportunities, and he deserves every right to take advantage of them.”

Audrey is white, with blonde hair and blue eyes. The sheriff's office said he was about 1.2 meters tall and weighed about 34 kilograms. The girl was last seen wearing black pants, a black jacket with white letters, and black high-top sneakers.

Anyone with information in this case is asked to immediately contact the Polk County Sheriff's Office at 936-327-6810 or Submit an anonymous complaint online.

CNN's Rosa Flores, Chris Boyett and Joe Sutton contributed to this report

This article has been updated

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