Police believe missing ULL student located
EVANGELINE PARISH — Authorities believe they have found the remains of Michaela “Mickey” Shunick of Lafayette near some grave sites off La. 10 near Mamou, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said Tuesday afternoon.
“The remains do appear to be those of Mickey Shunick,” Craft said.
More processing needs to be done to confirm the identity, but at this time authorities believe it is the missing 22-year-old college student, the police chief said.
Also Tuesday, authorities said Brandon Scott Lavergne, 33, the man accused of kidnapping and killing Shunick, was checked out of the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center for an unspecified amount of time but it was not clear late Tuesday who checked him out and why.
Police Cpl. Paul Mouton said investigators found the body Tuesday morning after receiving “very credible” information about its location.
The body was buried near some grave sites in a small cemetery about 100 yards off La. 10, Mouton said, adding he was unsure whether it was a public cemetery or a private burial area.
Police left the scene at 8:30 p.m., Mouton said.
“The body is being transported to the Lafayette Parish Coroner’s Office,” Mouton said. “It may be a day or two before we get 100 percent confirmation on the identity.”
Shunick, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette student, was last seen shortly before 2 a.m. May 19, bicycling from a friend’s home on Ryan Street near downtown to her parents’ home on Governor Miro, about five miles away. She was an avid cyclist and animal lover.
Margaret Bearb, coordinator for the Mickey Shunick search effort, issued the following statement Tuesday on behalf of the volunteers and Shunick’s family:
“We appreciate all the efforts of the law enforcement agencies, searchers and volunteers. We know that the media has reported that Mickey Shunick’s body was found in Evangeline Parish. However, as of right now, and until an official press release is made by the proper officials, we cannot report either way that a body was found was that of Mickey. Also, we ask that you please respect the Shunick family by allowing them the privacy they need at this time. It has been, and still is, a long journey in the search to find Mickey, so we truly feel that they deserve some time alone until they are ready to respond to the current rumor.”
Police would not say whether Lavernge led authorities to the body, but Capt. Kip Judice, spokesman for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, confirmed that Lavernge was checked out of the parish Correctional Center on Tuesday.
Judice said he did not have access to the necessary records late Tuesday evening to confirm who checked Lavergne out and for how long.
Lavergne was arrested July 5 on counts of first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping in Shunick’s disappearance after police investigated a tip connecting him to a white truck seen on surveillance video the day she disappeared.
Lavergne has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in Shunick’s disappearance and in the July 1999 death of Lisa Pate.
Lavergne was a person of interest in Pate’s death as early as 2000. He was brought before a grand jury in 2008 in that case, but the grand jury took no action.
Lavergne, an offshore worker from rural St. Landry Parish, could face the death penalty if convicted on either of the first-degree murder counts.
Lavergne is a registered sex offender who was released from prison in 2008 after serving eight years on an aggravated oral sexual battery conviction for tying up, blindfolding and then sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman in Evangeline Parish in 1999.