Lavergne pleads not guilty to first-degree murder counts

Published: Jul. 27, 2012 at 9:28 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2012 at 2:32 PM CDT
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Brandon Lavergne (Source: Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office)
Brandon Lavergne (Source: Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office)

LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB) - The man accused of killing a college student although a body has not yet been found pleaded not guilty to murder charges for his arraignment hearing Friday.

Brandon Lavergne, 33, of Lawtell faces two counts of first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping in the disappearance of Mickey Shunick, 22, of Lafayette and death of Lisa Pate, 34, of Church Point.

KLFY-TV reported a trial date will be set after Oct. 9, which is the deadline for all motions to be filed. Next, a status hearing will be set. Finally, the trial date will be set. Prosecutors said they will ask for the death penalty in both cases.

According to the news station, Lavergne was taken into a courtroom connected to the jail to prevent the public from having access to him. Authorities said there are security concerns about him being exposed to the public and they are taking the necessary precautions.

A grand jury indicted Lavergne on July 18. It was a shock to most of his connection to Pate's murder because authorities had not previously mentioned it.

Pate disappeared 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. Police said Lavergne is originally from Church Point, which is just north of Lafayette.

Shunick was last seen riding her bicycle in Lafayette in the early morning hours of May 19. She has not been found despite an extensive search by law enforcement agencies, a Texas-based group and countless volunteers.

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 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.

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