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Texas girl's family blames her murder on ‘loophole’ in sex offender system

The family of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham is addressing the criticism they’ve faced for allowing her suspected killer, a convicted sex offender and friend of her father, to live on their property prior to her death.

In a statement to local Texas outlets, Audrii’s father and grandmother, Tabitha Munsch, attributed the tragic oversight to a failure by “the system.”

Don Steven McDougal, 42, was charged with capital murder last week after Audrii’s body was found in the Trinity River near Livingston, roughly 75 miles northeast of Houston.

Audrii, whose death was ruled to be a result of homicidal violence including blunt-force trauma to the head, disappeared while en route to school six days prior on Feb. 15. It was reported that McDougal, who lived in a trailer on the Cunningham’s property, would sometimes accompany Audrii to her bus stop, as he did that fateful day.

“Audrii Danielle Cunningham was lured under false pretenses, which led to a senseless act of violence occurring and ultimately to her death,” reads the family’s statement. “Tragically, Audrii’s death occurred at the hands of a monster we thought was a friend, only 10 days after Audrii’s 11th birthday.”

The family acknowledged the backlash they’ve faced “for showing compassion and mercy to this formerly incarcerated person,” noting their interactions with McDougal “were a result of our faith, which teaches us to give our fellow man a second chance.”

“Unfortunately, the system failed us due to a loophole in the sex offender registration system,” they said. “Don Steven McDougal had a history of disrespect for young female children, but it did not show up when we checked the registry before allowing him to stay in an old camper in our backyard while he tried to start a new life.”

If they’d known the truth, Audrii’s loved ones said McDougal “would never have set foot on our property, much less been a part of our little girl’s life.”

The family called on local and national lawmakers and law enforcement “to look at the loophole that prevented us from knowing what Don McDougal was, a convicted sex offender.”

According to local station KJAS, McDougal had previously been indicted on a charge of attempted indecency with a child after he allegedly got into a bed with a young girl and attempted to remove her clothes. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of child enticement and, as a result, was not required to register as a sex offender.

Audrii’s family noted they’ll host a memorial service in the early evening of March 1, to which “the public who helped in this effort are invited to attend.” They requested attendees wear her favorite color, purple. A private funeral for family and close friends will be held the following day.