Authorities re-start search after discovery
“We found the bike and we didn’t find her. Obviously someone’s trying to cover their tracks and that’s all we were waiting for is to know that yes, someone definitely took my sister.” Charlie shunick, sister of Michaela Shunick
Updated at 7:40 a.m.
LAFAYETTE -- Investigators returned to the Atchafalaya Basin late Wednesday to search for clues in the disappearance of 22-year-old Mickey Shunick but found no additional evidence, police said in a news release early Thursday morning.
Divers from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office had been called in to search the water after a sonar search indicated the possibility of new evidence, Lafayette Police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said in a news release.
The search was in the area near the Whiskey Bay Bridge off Interstate 10, where fishermen found Shunick's black Schwinn bicycle in the water on Sunday morning.
Authorities had initially ended search efforts there on Monday but then returned on Wednesday to review the area again with sonar equipment.
Also Wednesday, investigators ruled out two vehicles sought in the disappearance of Shunick, an avid cyclist and University of Louisiana at Lafayette student who has been missing since May 19, Mouton said.
Police identified the operators and occupants of both the 1980s or 1990s four-door car with body work on the rear right quarter panel and the white four-door pickup truck with a bed cover and tinted windows. The two vehicles were both captured on surveillance video in the area where Shunick was last seen, Mouton said.
Investigators have ruled out any involvement by these individuals and they offered no additional clues for the investigation, Mouton said.
"We were able to find the vehicles, identify the owners, and then interviewed them based on what they did in the area and where they were going. All their stories checked out," Mouton said.
Meanwhile, investigators continue to seek information on a white, four-door Chevrolet Z-71 pickup truck that was seen on the videotape traveling in the same direction on St. Landry as Shunick, Mouton said.
Shunick was last seen shortly before 2 a.m. May 19 leaving a friend's house at 100 Ryan St., riding the black Schwinn bicycle.
Police said Tuesday that Shunick's bicycle was damaged when fishermen found it on Sunday at the Whiskey Bay exit off I-10 in the Atchafalaya Basin.
The rim of the rear wheel was bent and the tire was off the rim, authorities have said.
Investigators do not believe the bicycle was thrown from the bridge. The bike has been sent to the State Police crime lab for processing, authorities have said.
Also, after speaking with detectives in Bloomington, Ind., investigators in Lafayette do not believe that Shunick's disappearance is connected to the disappearance of Lauren Spierer, an Indiana University student who had been missing since June.
At Blackham Coliseum on Wednesday, the site of the Find Mickey Shunick search efforts, her sister, Charlene "Charlie" Shunick, said the family took Sunday's discovery as a positive.
"We found the bike and we didn't find her. That's great," Charlie Shunick says. "Obviously someone's trying to cover their tracks and that's all we were waiting for is to know that yes, someone definitely took my sister. That's what we've been saying since that Saturday (when she went missing). It's what I was feeling and that confirmed it." Charlie Shunick said the community has treated Mickey Shunick as if she were a part of their family. She says that outpouring of support has made this difficult time a little easier to deal with.
She pointed to several large posters with colorful butterflies that hang along the railing around a portion of Blackham Coliseum. The butterflies were created by Little Paintbrush, a local art studio for children.
The support extends to area law enforcement officials, who have done "everything possible" during the search efforts for her sister, Charlie Shunick said.
"They've been doing more than I could have ever asked for," she said. "We're not sleeping; they're not sleeping. We're stressed out; they're stressed out. Everyone's treating my sister like a part of their family." "I think she is part of our family," said Christina Silvetti, with Texas Equusearch, the nonprofit mounted search and rescue team that has coordinated the search effort since last week.
Volunteer search efforts will resume starting at 8 a.m. Thursday at Blackham Coliseum, Silvetti said.
The volunteer effort was suspended Wednesday to give the volunteers a break, Silvetti said.
"Everyone has come here and put their best foot forward. People who come on the searches go on multiple searches a day. Everyone needs a break," Silvetti said.
While volunteers rested, Texas Equusearch continued searching Wednesday while also regrouping their search efforts and formulating new plans for the coming days, Silvetti said.
Volunteers are asked to wear long pants and closed-toe shoes while on search efforts, Silvetti said.
Anyone with information about Mickey Shunick is asked to call police at (337) 291-8633.