'She Could Always Make You Laugh': Audrii Cunningham, 11, Remembered by Loved Ones After Killing

Audrii Cunningham went missing on Feb. 15 and her body was discovered on Feb. 20, authorities say

<p>Polk County Sheriff

Polk County Sheriff's Office; Livingston Independent School District

Audrii Cunningham (L); Her last art project (R)

Audrii Cunningham finished school on Feb. 14 and never returned — but she left behind her spirit with a group project she completed on her last day of school.

Now, her name hangs in the hallway alongside the project, Dr. Brent Hawkins, superintendent of Livingston Independent School District in Texas, tells PEOPLE.

Cunningham, 11, was reported missing on Feb. 15 when she did not show up to school, authorities said previously. Her body was discovered tied to a rock in the Trinity River on Tuesday.

Texas authorities charged Don Steven McDougal, a friend of her family, with capital murder in connection with her death.

McDougal was allegedly the last person to be seen with her, authorities have said. Hawkins tells PEOPLE McDougal had brought Audrii to school as recently as Feb. 12.

Related: Body of Missing Texas 11-Year-Old Audrii Cunningham Found in Trinity River

Now, Audrii's friends, teachers, family members and an entire community in Livingston, Texas, is mourning the girl that Hawkins says had "great impact on her friends and was very deeply loved by her teachers.”

“She was a family member at the school,” Hawkins says. “We watched her grow up in our school.”

Audrii was a "people person" with an "infectious smile," Hawkins says, echoing what her family members have said about the girl.

“No matter where she went or who she met, she just made them light up,” Audrii’s aunt, Brenda Cedars, said at a vigil for her on Wednesday, according to CNN.

Related: Man Accused of Murdering Audrii Cunningham Was Family Friend Who Participated in Search for Her: Sheriff

Audrii also had a knack for making people around her happy.

“She could always make you laugh, no matter what kind of mood you were in. It just isn’t fair that we all got robbed of that,” Cedars said, according to CNN.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, a non-profit veterans organization with which Audrii was connected through a family member, also remembers the fifth grader in a similar way.

“Audrii loves the VFW and has spent many days making us laugh and learning to dance,” the organization said in a Facebook post before her body was discovered. “Our hearts are breaking. We love you sweet girl.”

<p>Livingston Independent School District</p> Audrii Cunningham's last school project

Livingston Independent School District

Audrii Cunningham's last school project

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Audrii's presence is now marked through her absence in the classroom and with her name written in purple — her favorite color — in the school hallway.

For the “High 5” project she completed on her last day, she signed her name in purple ink with a heart next to it, a photo of the project shows.

Her teachers and friends are trying to cope, haunted by her absence and the circumstances of her death, Hawkins says.

“It’s a very emotional time for their teachers as well as those kiddos. They look over there and see an empty desk where she was,” he says. “They have no answers for what happened.”

Authorities have not released any further details on the nature of her death. McDougal remains in custody and it is not clear if he has entered a plea or retained an attorney.

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