Shunick family hoping missing student is alive

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Relatives of a Lafayette college student missing since May say they are holding on to the hope Mickey Shunick is still alive.

A Lafayette Parish grand jury indicted Brandon Scott Lavergne, 33, on Wednesday for the killing of Shunick and in the death of another woman in 1999.

Mickey Shunick's sister said she hopes the indictment will push Lavergne into revealing where her sister is.

Shunick's body has not been found and police have not said why they believe the University of Louisiana-Lafayette student is dead.

"The odds do not seem to be in our favor but as I have said before, until I am standing over the casket at the funeral, there will be hope that she could possibly be out there," said Charlene Shunick.

The second woman Lavergne is charged with killing, Marie Pate, 35, was reported missing in June 1999. Her body was found three months later in a field near Church Point in Acadia Parish, about 12 miles from Lawtell, Lavergne's home.

Charlene Shunick said news of a second death, possibly at the hands of Lavergne, came as a shock.

"I am trying desperately to hold onto 'innocent until proven guilty' because it's true and fair and my family and I are not aware of the evidence they have against Brandon Lavergne," she said.

"If he is responsible or involved in some way all we want is for him to tell us where Mickey is so we can bring her home," she added.

In a statement, the district attorney's office said prosecutors will seek the death penalty in both cases.

Lavergne was imprisoned for 8 years for sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman in 1999. He was arrested July 5 and booked with murder and aggravated kidnapping in the Shunick case.

Shunick was last seen riding away from a friend's house in Lafayette on her bicycle, days before her 22nd birthday. Her black Schwinn bicycle was found 25 miles away.

A surveillance video shows her on the bicycle on the morning of May 19. Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft has said Lavergne owned a white pickup truck that was also spotted on the same video.

The vehicle was later found burned in Texas. Investigators also can place Lavergne in and around the remote, swampy area where Shunick's black Schwinn bicycle was found eight days after she disappeared.

Craft has said damage to the bike's rear tire might have come from being hit by a vehicle.

Last week, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office report said Lavergne checked himself into a hospital there for treatment of stab wounds the day Shunick disappeared. Jefferson authorities said he told them someone attacked him at a gas station in the parish. Jefferson is about an hour and a half drive from where Shunick was last seen.

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