LAFAYETTE — A search of Brandon Scott Lavergne’s home in the investigation of Mickey Shunick’s death uncovered the driver’s license of a woman whose whereabouts remain unknown, according to a review of a case file released Monday by the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The case file documents what Police Chief Jim Craft characterized Monday as “the biggest and most complicated and involved investigation that I am aware of in the history of the Police Department.”
Lavergne, 33, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in August to two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Shunick, 21, and Lisa Pate, 35.
He admitted to killing Shunick after abducting the University of Louisiana at Lafayette student as she traveled home on her bicycle in the early morning hours of May 19 near downtown Lafayette.
Pate’s remains were discovered Sept. 21, 1999, in rural Acadia Parish. Lavergne had long been a suspect in the case but had not been formally charged until after his arrest in the Shunick investigation this year.
According information in the investigative files released on Monday, detectives found the wallet and driver’s license of a Texas woman named Madeline Aumiller in a search of Lavergne’s Church Point home on July 5.
Detectives tracked down the woman’s brother, who said that she had been living with him but that he had asked her to move out “due to too many problems he could not deal with,” according to the case file.
The brother said he had continued to put money in his sister’s bank account but that she had not accessed the account since at least April, according to the case file.
Prosecutor Roger Hamilton, who was involved in the Shunick investigation, said Monday that information about the driver’s license was forwarded to other jurisdictions outside of Louisiana but that he has heard nothing about whether the woman has been located or whether Lavergne was connected to her in any way.
Hamilton did confirm that Lavergne is not considered a suspect in any local disappearances or unsolved crimes.
“We didn’t find anything else to suggest any other crimes committed in the Acadiana area,” he said.
The case filed on released on Monday indicates that the first tips connecting Lavergne to Shunick’s disappearance came in late May from the family members of a woman Lavergne was dating.
The family members told police of their suspicions about Lavergne’s white Chevrolet Z71 truck — the same color, make and model recorded on surveillance video following Shunick on May 19 — and about a story Lavergne had told about being stabbed and robbed while in New Orleans on May 19, the day Shunick disappeared.
Lavergne told prosecutors after his arrest that Shunick had grabbed his knife and stabbed him as she fought for her life.
Detectives were chasing literally hundreds of leads when the first tips about Lavergne came in, but the investigation quickly honed in on him over the next three weeks, according to the case file.
Detectives confirmed that a Chevrolet Z71 registered to Lavergne was found burned in Texas and that he had reported it stolen and bought another Z71 to replace it — a move that prosecutors have said was done to “lessen local suspicion.”
Detectives also secured a court order for Lavergne’s cellphone records, which indicated he was in the Lafayette area about the time Shunick disappeared and had been “actively attempting to contact sexual escorts on his cellular telephone,” according to the case file.
Detectives then confirmed that Lavergne had sought medical treatment in New Orleans for stab wounds within 24 hours of Shunick’s disappearance.
On June 29, six days before Lavergne’s arrest, detectives obtained a warrant to search his home and also secretly placed a satellite tracking device on his truck.
One reason for tracking the vehicle was to monitor Lavergne to see if he would lead them to Shunick, Craft said.
At that point, he said, investigators were orchestrating a plan to take Lavergne into custody without giving him or any of his acquaintances an opportunity to destroy evidence.
Their effort was made more complicated when, about a week before the arrest, someone who knew Lavergne posted on Facebook that he was being eyed as a suspect, Craft said.
“Word was starting to get out that we had suspect,” Craft said. “… It actually got posted on a Facebook page.”
He said police were able to quickly get the Facebook page removed.
On July 5, State Police pulled over Lavergne in Lafayette Parish and took him into custody while a group of detectives searched his home and others fanned out to interview friends and relatives believed to have some knowledge about the case, according to the case file.
“It was a pretty complicated and well-executed plan of serving search warrants and interviewing witness simultaneously,” Craft said.
Less than 30 days after his arrest, Lavergne pleaded guilty in a deal that spared him from the death penalty. But when taken in to custody on July 5, Lavergne had denied any involvement in Shunick’s disappearance.
When informed that he was under arrest for murder, Lavergne responded “with what evidence,” according to the case file.
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