Brandon Scott Lavergne may have ties to missing TX teen

Ali Lowitzer (Source: KLFY-TV in Lafayette, LA)
Ali Lowitzer (Source: KLFY-TV in Lafayette, LA)
Mickey Shunick
Mickey Shunick
Lisa Pate
Lisa Pate
Brandon Scott Lavergne (Source: Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office)
Brandon Scott Lavergne (Source: Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office)

LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB/KLFY) - There is new speculation the man accused of killing two women in Louisiana may be connected to a missing Texas teenager.

KLFY in Lafayette, LA reports a private investigator in the Lone Star state now seems to think Brandon Scott Lavergne may have ties to Ali Lowitzer, 15, who vanished near her home in Spring, TX on April 26, 2010. It is located just north of Houston.

Several tips indicated there was a white truck pulled over in the area where she was last seen. One caller even managed to get the first few digits of the license plate. Mac Sanford, the private investigator, said those numbers match plates on a truck owned by Lavergne.

Lavergne was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Mickey Shunick and Lisa Pate. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday. Prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty.

Lavergne's truck was found burned in a neighboring Texas county shortly after Shunick disappeared in Lafayette on May 19. Her body was found on Aug. 7 in Evangeline Parish.

Lisa Pate went missing in Lafayette in June 1999. According to the indictment, it is believed she was killed on or around July 3, 1999. Her remains were found in Church Point, LA in late September of that year.

A former inmate who served prison time with Lavergne recently spoke publicly about the accused killer. He said investigators questioned Lavergne about multiple murders when he was locked up seven years ago in Dequincy, LA.

"It was somebody very serious," said the man, who wished to remain anonymous. "It was a police agency and they come and questioned him for several hours about the murder of two or three women in the same Lafayette area. He come back several hours later and spoke to me and he was scared to death."

"[I] said, 'Brandon, did you do this?' A heads up question - basically, did you do it? And, instead of saying yes or no, he come back and said, 'I'm not going to tell you that or I can't tell you that,'" the former inmate added.

Within a day of the questioning, records show Lavergne was transferred to another prison in Avoyelles Parish. He would spend several years there before being released early on parole.

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.

Authorities from St. Landry and Lafayette parishes followed up on a tip on July 12 about possible gravesites two miles from Lavergne's home in the Lawtell area, which is located along US 190 just west of Opelousas, but all three sites were ruled out as graves.

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.

Shunick's bicycle was found in a swampy area at the Whiskey Bay exit off I-10 eight days after she disappeared. Police said the bicycle 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.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved. Caroline Balchunas with KLFY contributed to this report.