LAFAYETTE — Just one day after her 22nd birthday, hundreds of people — friends and family — gathered at Parc Sans Souci Tuesday night in honor of a missing Lafayette woman who was described as an easygoing animal lover and an avid cyclist.
Michaela “Mickey” Shunick was last seen shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday as she left from her friend’s home at 100 Ryan St., near downtown, on her way to Governor Miro Street near the intersection of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and West Congress Street. She was headed to her parents’ house where she lives, family and friends have said.
As volunteer efforts continued Tuesday, investigators followed leads and checked and expanded upon the bike routes Shunick normally took when riding to and from her home, Lafayette police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said.
The investigative team includes local, state and federal authorities, police said.
At Tuesday’s candlelight vigil, Shunick’s mother, Nancy Ann Rowe, described her daughter as a “happy, friendly kid” who had no dark side.
“She had a detention once in the second grade. … She’s not troubled and she’s not troublesome. She’s been hanging out around the same bunch of kids, some of them since before grade school,” Rowe said.
“If you knew her and looked at her, I can’t imagine anyone would want to hurt her,” her mother said. “Everyone who knows her loves her.”
Rowe offered a plea to whomever may be responsible for her daughter’s disappearance.
“As long as she’s alive, anything that happened to her, we can work through that,” Rowe said. “As long as she has her life, everything else can be fixed,” Rowe said.
A childhood friend, Emily Romein, who has known Mickey Shunick since she was 11, called her “quiet in nature, subdued” and conflict-free.
“She was not one to cause a stir on any level,” Romein said.
Mickey Shunick was an avid cyclist and a large part of the city’s growing community of cyclists, Romein said.
Shunick rode her bicycle from her parent’s home to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she attended school, virtually every day, Romein said.
Speaking at the vigil, Romein also called her friend an incredible athlete who could handle the horses she rides and trains at an equestrian center in Judice “with ease.”
Rowe said her daughter is a lover and keeper of animals, including a pot-bellied pig, a 10- to 11-year-old rabbit and a cockatiel, which has been calling Shunick’s name for the past few days.
Police described Shunick as 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighing 115 pounds. She was wearing a pastel, multicolored striped shirt, light-wash skinny jeans and gray shoes, police said.
Shunick was riding a black Schwinn bicycle with gold handlebar grips and wearing a brown leather backpack purse, police said.
Brettly Wilson, the last person to see Shunick, said Tuesday that his friend often made the trip home alone at night.
“Until this, none of us had ever considered it to be a dangerous thing,” Wilson said inside his home.
He said it is highly unlikely Shunick would have deviated from her trip to her parent’s home.
“It’s not in her nature to go somewhere contrary to where she said she was going,” Wilson said.
There was also nowhere else she would have wanted to go, he said.
“Everyone she would have wanted to see was here,” Wilson said, referring to her friends and to her older sister, Charlie, who was in town for their brother’s graduation on Saturday.
Wilson and Shunick also planned to go tubing on Sunday and were heading to New Orleans for her birthday on Monday, he said.
Since Sunday afternoon, Wilson’s home at 100 Ryan Street has become a hub for volunteer search efforts that have grown from a mere 12 people to one that now incorporates widespread use of social media, interviews on national television and the support of people and businesses, volunteer coordinator Eileen Hanson said Tuesday afternoon at Wilson’s home.
“As more and more people came and word spread out through the social media and through friends and contacts, we’ve had, I’m estimating, somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 volunteers who have come through here in the last 48 hours,” Hanson said.
A few hours later while at the vigil, Hanson said the number had grown to 750 people.
On Tuesday afternoon, two large tents carrying volunteer information and food sat in Wilson’s front yard, while volunteers coordinated plans inside the home.
Jenn Stevens sat beneath a map hanging outside near the front door Tuesday and pointed to all the areas volunteers have searched, including large swaths of Lafayette and neighboring communities and cities such as Broussard, Scott, New Iberia, Eunice, Rayne and Butte La Rose.
Like many volunteers, Stevens, who tracks all the search areas, said she did not personally know Shunick. She was a friend of a friend, she said.
A reward for information leading to the woman’s whereabouts also has increased from $10,000 to $20,000, Hanson said at the vigil.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” show will feature Shunick’s story Wednesday morning and “CNN Headline News” highlighted the search efforts Tuesday night, Hanson said.
The outpouring of support has shown the family and friends that “we live in one of, if not the finest community in the U.S.,” Hanson said. “Hope is alive. Hope is well and we’re going to bring Mickey home.”
Also at the vigil, Kori LeCompte, a family friend, said “CNN Headline News” has promised to do an interview every day until Shunick comes home.
LeCompte said more help is needed. “We haven’t searched all of Lafayette yet,” she said.
During Tuesday’s City-Parish Council meeting, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft updated the council on the department’s search efforts.
“We have had an investigative team assigned to this case since Sunday,” Craft said.
The chief said investigators are being assisted by the FBI, local sheriff’s offices and the U.S. Marshals Service.
The Police Department is also monitoring a dedicated police tip line that “is being manned 24 hours a day by investigators who can immediately dispatch or follow up on leads,” Craft said.
“No matter how small or how minor it might be, we need the public’s assistance in locating this young lady,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lamar Advertising has agreed to begin posting missing person info on billboards on interstates in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, Craft said.
A patrol officer took the missing person report at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Mouton said.
The responding officer went to the parent’s home and entered Shunick’s information into a national database, Mouton said. The officer also canvassed the area around 100 Ryan St., he said.
Anyone with information about Shunick is asked to call police at (337) 232-8477.
A Facebook page dedicated to the search is at “Find Mickey Shunick Now.” The page includes information about how to donate to two separate funds.