The family of a university student who went missing in May say they can finally begin to grieve after police positively identified a body they found earlier this week. Police say the body discovered in Evangeline Parish was that of Michaela ''Mickey'' Shunick. Her family said Friday they can begin the healing process now and are asking for privacy from the media. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, August 10, 2012 11:08 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The family of a University of Louisiana-Lafayette student who vanished months ago said Friday they can finally begin healing after police said they identified a body found earlier this week as that of Michaela "Mickey" Shunick.
Police say they will not comment further on the body discovered in Evangeline Parish Tuesday after a "credible witness" led them to human remains buried in a rural grave site at a small cemetery about 100 yards off La. 10 near Mamou.
"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 lost a part of ourselves. Now, as we can begin our healing process, we can only ask for a bit of privacy from the media and the public during this somber time," her family said in a statement.
They said "she deserved a long and happy life filled with love and laughter."
Shunick was last seen riding her bicycle away from a friend's house May 19, days before she turned 22. Brandon Lavergne, 33, was charged with aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder in her case and with the murder of Lisa Marie Pate in July 1999. District Attorney Mike Harson said Lavergne has been a suspect in Pate's killing since at least 2000.
Lavergne has been held without bond since he was arrested July 5.
Lavergne, a registered sex offender from Swords, has pleaded not guilty to both murders. Prosecutors have said in court filings they believe Lavergne has been moving both bodies in an attempt to hamper the investigation.
An inmate custody form shows that Lavergne was checked out of jail and talking with authorities hours before Shunick's body was found. Police won't say if Lavergne was the witness who led them to cemetery.
Authorities have not yet determined how Shunick died and say that could take two to four weeks because the body was so badly decomposed. The Louisiana State University FACES Lab and the Louisiana Forensic Center will both examine her body.
Eight days after Shunick vanished, her black Schwinn bicycle was found partially submerged under a highway bridge in Iberville Parish, about 25 miles from where she was last seen.
A volunteer center was set up in Lafayette to coordinate searches for her.
"Thousands of strangers, nearly all of whom had never heard the name Mickey Shunick before May 19th, came from all across Louisiana and the rest of the country to help a family find their daughter and a group of young people find their friend. All of the monetary and material donations are countless pieces of evidence of the love shown for Mickey and her family," the center said in a statement.