Shunick case leads to charges in unsolved murder

Lisa Pate
Lisa Pate

LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB) - 15th Judicial District Attorney Mike Harson is looking back at an unsolved murder that's been on the books for more than a decade.  It involved a multi-agency search in Acadia Parish.  34-year-old Lisa Pate had disappeared.  Authorities believe she knew her alleged killer, Brandon Lavergne.

"I think they possibly knew one another, but to what extent is not clear," said Harson.

Authorities say a rice farmer found Pate's body in an empty field about 20 miles north of I-10.  They sent the remains to forensic scientists.  But they couldn't identify it was Pate.

Lavergne spent the next eight years in prison after being convicted of sexual battery.  Harson says he spent those years building evidence in Pate's murder.  

One of Pate's sons, Bryant Martie, released a statement:

"The only thing we would like to say at this time is that we are glad he is finally getting charged for this. (We) waited 13 years for this and if they would of gotten him then he wouldn't have be able to do what he (has) done today. We send our thoughts and prayers out to the Shunick family and thank everyone for their condolences and prayers."

A conviction would have kept Lavergne behind bars, but that never happened.

"Case went to grand jury in 2008 but there was no verdict. No evidence at the time to indict him," said Harson.

That changed on Wednesday, when a Lafayette grand jury ruled there is enough evidence to indict Lavergne on first degree murder for Pate's death and UL-Lafayette student Mickey Shunick.

Does Harson think he has a serial killer on his hands?

"I'm not going to comment on that," said Harson. "All I can say is we have an individual who appears in two homicides."

Investigators have been careful not to release any information they have that links Lavergne to either murder.

"I'd rather not have this case tried like the Casey Anthony trial in Florida or all the other ones that stay on TV for a year and a half," explained Harson.

Shunick vanished nearly two months ago.  While searches continue from Louisiana to Texas, Harson says investigators have no solid leads on where her body might be.

"It's like looking for a needle in a haystack. We're hoping for the public's observances," he added.

Lavergne is due back in court on July 27th.

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