Police: Shunick suspect not cooperating

Brandon Lavergne (Source: Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office)
Brandon Lavergne (Source: Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office)
Mickey Shunick, missing since May 19, 2012
Mickey Shunick, missing since May 19, 2012

LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB) - The Lafayette Police department says the suspect in the death of Mickey Shunick has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Authorities said the man arrested in connection with the disappearance of ULL student Mickey Shunick has been charged with murder. Shunick went missing on May 19, 2012. She was last seen riding her bike St. Landry Street in Lafayette just before 2 a.m. Police believe she was headed home.

Officials at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center said Brandon Lavergne, 33, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping.

During a preliminary hearing Friday morning via video conference, a judge assigned him a public defender after Lavergne told him he couldn't afford an attorney "for a case like this."

The following is the entire hearing:

Judge Thomas Fredericks - "Brandon Scott Lavergne?"

Brandon Scott Lavergne - "Yes sir."

Judge - "Mr. Lavergne, do you still live at 143 Elaine Lane in Church Point?"

Lavergne - "Yes sir."

Judge - "What's your date of birth?"

Lavergne - "January of 79."

Judge - "What is it?"

Lavergne - "January 8th of 79... 1979"

Judge - "79?"

Lavergne - "Yes sir."

Judge - "You're being held on two original arrest warrants. One is aggravated kidnapping. Bail in that amount is set at $250,000, and the second charge is for first degree murder and you're being withheld bond in that matter. Do you have a lawyer?"

Lavergne - "No I don't sir."

Judge - "Can you afford a lawyer?"

Lavergne - "Not in a case like this sir."

Judge - "Excuse me?"

Lavergne - "No sir."

Judge - "OK. I'm referring you to the public defender's office."

Lavergne was brought in wearing handcuffs and also wearing a green full body suit. According to sheriff's deputies, this was worn to protect him from attacks from other inmates. He is also being held in a private cell away from the general population of inmates.

In a news conference Friday afternoon, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft says evidence in the case suggests Shunick is dead.  However, he says, her body has not been found.  Shunick disappeared in May while riding her bike home in Lafayette.

Craft says a burned truck that was discovered near Houston, Texas in June was later found to be registered to the suspect in this case, Brandon Lavergne.

Louisiana State Police arrested Lavergne during a traffic stop on July 5 in Lafayette.  He was taken into custody on an unrelated charge related to his required registration as a sex offender from a case dating back to the year 2000. In that case he was charged with aggravated sexual battery.

Craft says, after the arrest on Thursday, Lavergne was brought the Lafayette Police Department and, during initial questioning, Lavergne requested an attorney and refused to answer any further questions.   

Lavergne, 33, is an offshore worker. He had been working offshore for the past two weeks just prior to his arrest on Thursday, police said.

Lavergne appears on the Louisiana State Police website as a registered sex offender. According to the website, he was convicted in 2000 of aggravated oral sexual battery.

Investigators spent several hours Thursday searching a home in the Lawtell area.  Lawtell is located in St. Landry Parish along US 190 just west of Opelousas.

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz confirmed the search of the home was related to the Shunick case.

Surveillance video from a business showed Mickey Shunick riding her bike home. It also showed a white truck in the area at the time. Craft says that police were able to identify the truck found in Texas as being the same truck shown in that surveillance video.

Shunick's bicycle was found in a swampy area at the Whiskey Bay exit off Interstate 10 eight days after she disappeared. Police said that the bicycle had damage to it that is consistent with it being struck by a vehicle.

Craft says his detectives have evidence that shows Lavergne was in the Whiskey Bay near the time that bike was discovered. "We can place his vehicle in that area at that time," Craft said. He would not give further details.

However, Lavergne's cell phone was confiscated at the time of his arrest.  Police frequently use cell phone records to determine if a suspect's cell phone was in contact with cell phone towers in a particular area at a particular time.

Craft says Shunick's body has not been found but evidence in the case indicates she is dead.  He would not elaborate.

At the time of his arrest, Lavergne was driving a white pickup that is the same model as the one he previously owned. Craft says records show Lavergne purchased another truck, almost identical to the first, after Shunick disappeared.

"We will not rest until we find out what happened to her," Craft said.

Mickey Shunick's family has released the following statement:

All we want is Mickey back. All we care about is finding out what happened and getting our girl back.

We are holding up fine and staying positive, the chances of her being alive today are the same as they were yesterday… and for that reason we are keeping the Faith!

As Nancy, Mickey's mom, state, "Our goal is the same as since May 19th---FIND MICKEY AND BRING HER HOME."

We thank all of you for everything you have done for our family, friends and extended families.  Without the love and support everyone has given us, we would not be where we are today.

We also ask you to please respect the family's request for privacy in this emotionally turbulent time.


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