A body located yesterday near a rural, family cemetery in Evangeline Parish is believed to be that of Shunick, the missing University of Louisiana at Lafayette student who’s disappearance sparked an outpouring of support from the Acadiana area.
The remains were taken to Lafayette by officials with the coroner’s office Tuesday night, according to Lafayette Police Department spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton. However, it may be a few days before the body can be positively be confirmed as Shunick’s.
“The remains do appear to be those of Shunick’s,” said Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft during Lafayette’s City-Parish Council meeting Tuesday night. “Her family has been notified and we do have a lot more processing to do but we do believe the body is that is that of Mickey.”
Church Point native Brandon Lavergne, a 33-year-old registered sex offender, was arrested and charged with murder and aggravated kidnapping with the Schunick case as well as the murder of Lisa Pate, a Youngsville native who was found murdered in 1999. According to authorities, Lavergne has always been one of the top suspects in the Pate case, however, they didn’t have enough to charge him. What evidence led them to charge him in the Pate case is still unknown.
Cpl. Mouton said that what led them to the remains was a very reliable source. It is unknown at this time if that source was Lavergne, however, records from the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center show that Lavergne checked out of prison yesterday morning and returned at approximately 3:30 p.m. which is around the same time that news began breaking that a body - possibly Shunick’s - been found in Evangeline Parish.
When Shunick, 21, disappeared after being photographed by a surveillance camera in the early morning hours of May 19 riding her bicycle down St. Landry St., it brought an outpouring of support and emotion that may have never been seen in the Acadiana area before. Hundreds of volunteers passed out flyers, walked with search parties and held fundraisers to support the search and the Shunick family.
One of those was Jamie Taylor, a 20-year-old woman from Lafayette, who sold over 5,000 bracelets to raise money for the Shunick’s.
“I just wanted to help the family in any way I could and I thought raising money was the best thing I could do,” said Taylor on Wednesday. “If I ever went missing, I would want anyone to help find me and to help my family with everything. Also, if one of my sisters ever went missing I wouldn’t care who was helping to find them.”
Perhaps, if the remains turn out to be those of Shunick’s as expected, she will be remembered for bringing people together in a time when the divisiveness in our country, states and cities is at an all time high.
And in this time of grief for the Shunick family, they may finally be a feeling of peace in the knowledge that their daughter may be coming home. And the closure that they and the entire Acadiana community has been seeking may finally have arrived.