The story of a murdered 21-year-old University of Louisiana student has multiple ties to Texas, and the alleged killer had apparently been in Montgomery and San Jacinto Counties.
On May 18, Mickey Shunick and a friend attended a concert at the Artmosphere in Lafayette. Afterward, Shunick returned to the friend’s home and then left on her bicycle, headed for her family’s home. Shunick visited a Taco Bell in the early hours of May 19, and then the 5-foot 1-inch, 110 pound co-ed seemingly vanished into thin air. Her family reported her missing later that day.
Police investigating the case found security video from a business that showed a white Chevrolet Z-71 pickup was following Shunick. Two other vehicles captured by video cameras were located and their occupants ruled out as suspects. Police released video of the white pickup to the public on May 25, hoping it might prompt someone to come forward with information. The following day, on May 26, Shunick’s bicycle was found along I-10, partially submerged under the Whisky Bay Bridge. Damage to the rear tire indicated the bike was struck from behind by a vehicle. Sonar was used and divers from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Dive Team searched the area without finding any additional clues.
The same day the bicycle was found, the white Chevrolet Z-71pickup now believed to have been used in the crime, was reported stolen in Montgomery County, Texas by the truck’s owner, a 33-year-old registered sex offender named Brandon Scott Lavergne, of Lawtell, Louisiana. At the time, Texas authorities had no reason to suspect anything sinister. On May 31, the truck was found burned in San Jacinto County.
In June, investigators called in Special K-9’s, a search group based in The Woodlands, to scour the area around Whisky Bay in search of remains. Jana Bickel, the group’s founder, said they took six of their trained dogs who searched the land and water in the area. The dogs alerted on a few spots on the land and one on the water, but none were productive. The dogs are trained to distinguish the scent of human remains from that of animals, Bickel said. However, she said, they also detect blood and since the area is a sort of fishing camp, they may have alerted on where a fisherman cut himself or some other injury that drew blood. Therefore, the hits may or may not have been related to Shunick.
Police called Special K-9’s back to Louisiana recently and asked them to search the area where Shunick disappeared, around Blackburn Coliseum. Two handlers used four dogs on that attempt, which was also fruitless. Another Texas-based group, Texas Equusearch, assisted with the search effort in Louisiana as well, searching for eight days in a row. Both groups have seen great success and their assistance is sought by law enforcement and desperate families in and outside the United States. But this search was a disappointment for both teams.
On Tuesday, Lafayette police stopped Lavergne on I-10 near I-49 and arrested him on a charge related to his registration as a sex offender. The offshore oilfield worker had just returned from a two-week offshore rotation and was driving a different white truck almost identical to the one he reported stolen in Texas.
Lavergne has since been charged with the first-degree Murder and Kidnapping of Mickey Shunick.
To date, Shunick remains missing. Louisiana authorities are releasing little information, except that they believe they now have enough evidence to support a case against Lavergene. In a press conference, they stated they believe Lavergne was driving around Lafayette in search of a victim on the night of Shunick’s disappearance. They say he found that victim when he allegedly spotted and abducted Shunick a little before 2 a.m., between St. Landry Street and Blackburn Coliseum.
Lavergne has refused to answer investigators’ questions. He told the judge he cannot afford an attorney, so he will be assigned a public defender.
The missing student’s family and friends have actively searched, posted and handed out flyers and set up a website called findmickeynow.com and a Facebook page called “FIND MICKEY SHUNICK NOW,” which currently has over 31,000 members. The page is filled with anguished, prayerful, hopeful and encouraging comments, as well as photos of the petite blonde co-ed. Multiple events have been held to raise money to support the ongoing search and local businesses have helped donating money signs and banners, along with selling t-shirts to raise awareness and donating half of the proceeds to the cause. The reward amount offered for information leading to her whereabouts was capped at $25,000. An anonymous donor who was touched by the story contributed $10,000 of that amount. The family says they are not giving up hope of finding her alive.
Special K-9’s Jana Bickel said she was glad to learn an arrest was made in the case.
“If it was (Lavergne), hopefully he’ll tell them where (Shunick) is and the family and she can have some peace,” Bickel said.
Thank God that there were video cameras located in this area…or another Murderer would have not been caught for this crime!!! You never know who the face of evil that confronts you will be…may he face the wrath of God and the justice system of mankind on earth in full force for murdering this beautiful young woman!! And perhaps his fellow prisoners will have a go at him! My prayers to the loved ones of this poor woman, this crime just makes me sick!! We are not safe anywhere!
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