News that the man arrested in the Mickey Shunick case had, on the same day she disappeared, visited a hospital in Jefferson Parish caught those involved with the volunteer search effort off guard, said Margaret Bearb, volunteer headquarters coordinator.
“That kind of put us in surprise mode,” Bearb said Friday. “We didn’t expect to hear something like that at this point.”
Hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officials have been searching for Shunick, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette student, thus far unsuccessfully.
Shunick was last seen shortly before 2 a.m. May 19, riding a bicycle after leaving a friend’s house in Lafayette.
Brandon Scott Lavergne was booked last week in Lafayette Parish in her disappearance. A grand jury is scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping charges against Lavergne, 33, an offshore worker and resident of Lawtell, a rural community in St. Landry Parish.
Meanwhile, a police report of Lavergne’s May 19 hospital visit indicates he was not cooperative and could provide little information about how he suffered stab wounds he alleged were the result of an attack outside a gas station.
While the report blacked out the complainant’s name, Col. John Fortunato, commander of the public information office for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, confirmed Thursday that the man was Lavergne.
The report states Deputy Christopher Hyer responded to Oschner Hospital on Jefferson Highway shortly after 10 p.m. May 19 in reference to a man who said he had been stabbed in the chest, back, neck and hand outside of a gas station at 3 p.m. that day.
Lavergne told Hyer he was driving in an unfamiliar area when he pulled his vehicle into a gas station to ask for directions. Once there, Lavergne said, he was approached by a white male with gold teeth, wearing a New Orleans Saints football jersey and a black hat that covered most of his face, the report says.
Lavergne said the man, without warning, stabbed him several times before stealing his wallet, which contained Lavergne’s driver’s license and $40 in cash. Lavergne said he then drove himself to the hospital, the report says.
The deputy wrote that Lavergne could not recall any information about the location of the attack, nor was he able to provide any information when asked about nearby street names, building shapes, landmarks or any other identifiable features of his surroundings.
Lavergne told the deputy he was in town visiting a friend and he planned to return home once he was released from the hospital, the report says.
The deputy passed along the information to a detective, advising him that Lavergne “was not being cooperative, and that he was providing limited information.”
Lafayette Police Cpl. Paul Mouton said Thursday the task force assigned to Shunick’s case “is aware of the incident” in Jefferson Parish but declined to provide further details.
A Lafayette Parish Correctional Center booking photo of Lavergne appears to show a scar on the right side of his neck.
In a second photo, taken Wednesday, the scar is covered by his prison jumpsuit.
Lavergne, a convicted sex offender, was reprocessed Wednesday after authorities learned he had not yet been booked for violating a component of the sex offender registration law.
Capt. Kip Judice, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said a warrant, executed Tuesday, alleges Lavergne altered his state-issued sex offender identification card and used this altered document while purchasing a vehicle on June 4 in Lafayette Parish.
Lavergne served eight years on an aggravated oral sexual battery conviction for tying up, blindfolding, then sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman in Evangeline Parish in 1999. He was released from prison in 2008.
Lafayette police have said Lavergne was developed as a suspect in the Shunick case after investigators received a tip June 14 connecting him to a white Chevrolet Z71 truck seen on a May 19 surveillance video traveling in the same direction as Shunick near downtown Lafayette.
Lavergne’s truck was reported stolen in Texas and later found burned on May 31, a few days after police released a video image of the vehicle, police have said.
Investigators also have information linking Lavergne to the area under the Interstate 10 Whiskey Bay Bridge where Shunick’s bicycle was found May 26, Police Chief Jim Craft has said.
Meanwhile, Bearb said volunteer search efforts continued Thursday and Friday and additional search parties were expected to go out Saturday.
“They’re keeping very busy and are still searching until she comes home,” Bearb said.
“The volunteer efforts are still strong,” Bearb said. “We’re working night and day to get out new T-shirts with a better picture of her … . It’s just amazing. We’ve sold almost every one of them already.”
The new shirt features a photo of Shunick, who would have turned 22 two days after her disappearance, wearing her horse riding helmet. Shunick taught English-style horse riding at a local equestrian center.
Bearb said Shunick’s family still stops by headquarters every day and they’re all “keeping their positive spirits going.”
“There’s still that ray of sunshine and hope that the little news here and there that’s coming out will maybe enlighten others out there who may have a better tip,” Bearb said.