LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB) - Investigators have identified the body discovered in Evangeline Parish as that of Michaela "Mickey" Shunick.
Officials say the remains were found buried near a cemetery off Highway 10 on August 7, 2012.
Shunick's family released the following statement:
Our world became a better place on May 22, 1990, when Mickey came into this world. She brightened the lives of everyone she touched. She deserved a long and happy life filled with love and laughter, but unfortunately today's news has proved otherwise.
Today, we begin our lives without Mickey. We have not just lost our daughter, and our children have not just lost their sister; but all of us have all lost a part of ourselves. Now, as we begin our healing process, we can only ask for a bit of privacy from the media and the public during this somber time.
We have been so touched by the thousands of strangers who have shown us their support during this difficult journey. We can never begin to repay all of you for you [sic] time, generosity, and unending support and love, and we know that Mickey would feel the same.
Also, we have to remember that we are not the only family that has been hurt by this tragedy. Please consider in your thoughts the other families that have unwillingly been made a part of this crisis.
As we close, let us remember to always be inspired by who Mickey was: her contagious smile, her love for all creatures, her devotion to family and friends, her passion for her students (for whom she served as a role model), and last but not least, the ray of sunshine she projects that will continue to make our world a little brighter.
We thank you for respecting our privacy in this difficult time by allowing us this opportunity to share these words with all of you today. Again, though we may now grieve for the loss of our daughter, let us also move forward by celebrating her life.
Mickey Shunick disappeared in Lafayette in the early morning hours of May 19, 2012, while riding her bike home. Hundreds of volunteers helped police in the search.
The first big break in the case came eight days after she disappeared; when fishermen found her bike in a swampy area of the Atchafalaya Basin, 25 miles from where she was last seen.
The FBI joined multiple local agencies in the search, including examining waterways near where the bike was found.
As days passed, police knew chances of finding her alive were fading, but her family held out hope as national media picked up the story and police were flooded with thousands of tips.
Then on July 5, 2012, word came that police had a suspect, Brandon Scott Lavergne. After some investigation, he was charged with the murders of two women, including Shunick.
According to a police report out of Jefferson Parish, Lavergne was treated for stab wounds at a hospital around 10 p.m. on May 19. The report stated Lavergne couldn't remember where he was attacked and he got vaguer as he was questioned.
Deputies said Lavergne told them someone at a gas station attacked him with a knife or sharp weapon when he stopped to ask for directions, but was unable to remember where the alleged attack occurred. They said he couldn't give street names, buildings or any details about the area where he claimed he was attacked.
Investigators said Lavergne eventually stopped cooperating and that's where the investigation into the alleged attack stopped. Lavergne was treated at the hospital and released.
Lavergne, 33, is a convicted sex offender. The Louisiana State Police arrested him during a traffic stop on July 5 in Lafayette. He was taken into custody because troopers said he failed to register as a sex offender from a case dating back to 2000. In that case, he was charged with aggravated sexual battery.
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said after being arrested by state police, Lavergne was brought to the Lafayette Police Department and, during initial questioning, Lavergne requested an attorney and refused to answer any further questions.
Lavergne is an offshore worker. Police said he had been working offshore for the past two weeks just prior to his arrest. Investigators spent several hours searching Lavergne's home on July 5.
Surveillance video from a business showed Shunick riding her bike home on May 19. It also showed a white truck in the area at the time. Craft said a burned truck that was discovered near Houston, TX in June was later found to be registered to Lavergne. He added detectives were able to identify the truck found in Texas as being the same truck shown in that surveillance video.
Police say the bicycle that was found in the Atchafalaya Basin had damage consistent with it being hit by a vehicle. Craft said his detectives have evidence showing Lavergne was around the Whiskey Bay near the time that bike was discovered.
At the time of his arrest, Lavergne was driving a white pickup that is the same model as the one he previously owned. Craft said records show Lavergne purchased another truck, almost identical to the first, after Shunick disappeared.
Lavergne pleaded not guilty to all charges, including counts related to the 1999 death of another woman, Lisa Pate.