LAFAYETTE — Lafayette police said Tuesday that missing 22-year-old Mickey Shunick’s bicycle was damaged when found on Sunday at the Whiskey Bay exit off Interstate 10 in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said that the rim of the rear wheel was bent and the tire was off the rim.
Police were initially hesitant to release the bicycle’s condition out of a concern that it would cause people to assume the bicycle had been damaged by a vehicle during an accident, Mouton said.
Mouton cautioned that police can only speculate at this point as to whether the bicycle was damaged while Shunick was riding it or after the fact.
The bicycle has been sent to the State Police crime lab in Baton Rouge for processing to try to determine how the damage occurred and whether any evidence can be gleaned from it, Mouton said.
Detectives are hopeful that forensic experts can find evidence on the frame, handle bars and handgrips that were recovered at the scene, Mouton said, adding that State Police have given the case a priority status.
Fishermen found Shunick’s bicycle partially submerged in the water next to the bank under the Whiskey Bay exit. Investigators do not believe the bicycle was thrown from the bridge, Mouton said.
“We believe the perpetrator or persons went beneath the bridge and dumped the bike in the water,” Mouton said.
After speaking with detectives in Bloomington, Ind., investigators in Lafayette currently do not believe that Shunick’s disappearance is connected to the disappearance of Lauren Spierer, an Indiana University student who has been missing since June.
Mouton confirmed Monday that investigators had been in contact with Bloomington police who believed the Shunick case resembled the disappearance of Spierer, then 20, who was last seen around 4:30 a.m. on June 3 after a night out with friends in downtown Bloomington, according to the Bloomington Herald-Times.
Shunick, an avid cyclist and University of Louisiana at Lafayette student, was last seen shortly before 2 a.m. May 19 leaving a friend’s house at 100 Ryan St., riding the black Schwinn bicycle.
Mouton said police are still asking for information on three vehicles seen on surveillance tapes in the area where Shunick was last seen.
The first vehicle is a white, four-door pickup truck with a cargo bed cover and tinted windows.
The second truck is a white, four-door Chevrolet Z-71 truck that was seen on the video tape traveling in the same direction on St. Landry Street as Shunick, Mouton said.
The third vehicle is a 1980s or 1990s four-door car with body work on the rear right quarter panel, Mouton said. Police believe that car turned onto St. Landry Street and headed in the same direction as Shunick, Mouton said.
Mouton stressed that the owners or drivers of those vehicles are not suspects, but just persons of interest who might have valuable information that could help in the case.
Authorities said they ended the official search of an area under the Interstate 10 Whiskey Bay Bridge on Monday — an effort that had begun a day earlier when the young woman’s black Schwinn bicycle was found by fishermen.
Authorities had examined the area from the air and the ground, using a State Police helicopter and sonar-equipped boats from the Iberville, St. Martin and Iberia parish sheriff’s offices, Mouton said.
On Tuesday, a group of about 10 volunteers, including police officers from Erath, continued searching near the area where Shunick’s bike was found.
Another group of volunteers also canvassed the area along the side of Louisiana Avenue between the Target shopping center and I-10 on the edge of Lafayette.
Meanwhile, volunteer search efforts, including donations, have been suspended until Thursday to allow the search effort time to regroup, said Christina Silvetti, with Texas Equusearch, a nonprofit mounted recovery and rescue team. The group will re-examine the work that has been done, review the areas that have been searched and determine what resources the search effort needs.
“It’s kind of cleaning up everything that was done,” Silvetti said Tuesday.