LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - 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.
They say "she deserved a long and happy life filled with love and laughter" but news that the body was Shunick's has proved otherwise.
Shunick was last seen riding her bicycle away from a friend's house May 19, days before she turned 22. Brandon Lavergne was charged with aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder in her case and with the murder of Lisa Marie Pate in July 1999.
Remains Confirmed as Mickey Shunick's
The Lafayette Parish Coroner has released the results from the body that was found in Evangeline Parish on Tuesday. Investigators have identified the body as that of Mickey Shunick. Coroner officials said the level of decomposition required the help of an LSU identification expert.
Today the Shunick family released a statement about the loss of Mickey:
"Our world became a better place on May 22, 1990, when Mickey came into this world. She brightened the lives of everyone she touched. She deserved a long and happy life filled with love and laughter, but unfortunately, today's news proved otherwise.
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 begin our healing process, we can only ask for a bit of privacy from the media and the public during this somber time.
We have been so deeply touched by the thousands of strangers who have shown us their support during this difficult journey. We can never begin to repay all of you for your time, generosity, and unending support and love. And we know that Mickey would feel the same.
Also, we have to remember that we are not the only family that has been hurt by this tragedy. Please consider in your thoughts the other families that have unwillingly been made a part of this crisis.
Let us remember to always be inspired by who Mickey was: her contagious smile, her love for all creatures, her devotion to family and friends, her passion for her students (for whom she served as a role model.) And last, but not least, the ray of sunshine she projects that will continue to make our world a little brighter.
We thank you for respecting our privacy during this difficult time by allowing us this opportunity to share these words with all of you today. Again, though we may now grieve for the loss of our daughter, let us also move forward by celebrating her life." -Shunick Family
Brandon Lavergne Update
Questions still remain – who directed police to the body and when will a positive identification be made.
Lafayette Police will not say if Brandon Lavergne lead them to the site.
The Lafayette Parish District Attorney will not confirm or deny that Lavergne was given a plea deal in exchange for information. Corporal Paul Mouton says the tip they arrived at the site through strong and credible information.
"We feel very strongly that this will be Mickey Shunick obviously without the positive identification we can't be 100%," says Mouton.
KLFY-TV10 Eyewitness News has learned that around 6:40 am Tuesday Lavergne was checked out of the Lafayette Correctional Center. At about 3:00pm he was returned.
"It was in connection with the Mickey Shunick case. The nature and reasoning why they did that I don't have any information on it. They do not want released at this time," explains Mouton.
So what about Evangeline Parish? Evangeline District Attorney Trent Brignac says it's a wait and see. If the autopsy proves that the remains are Mickey's, Evangeline will be out of the equation.
"Then it appears that any crimes against Ms. Shunick were committed elsewhere," says Brignac.
Brignac says if the remains come back negative then Evangeline Parish may have an issue.
"We'll go from there. That's right the investigation is ongoing."
According to reports the remains are now in the hands of a face identification expert at Louisiana State University, because the remains were so far into the advance stage of decay.
Officials at the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Department say the man they believe murdered Mickey Shunick was checked out of a correctional center hours before police found a body believe to be the missing student.
Capt. Kip Judice, spokesman for the department, said Wednesday Brandon Lavergne was checked out of the Lafayette Parish Correction Center early Tuesday morning and taken across the street to the sheriff's department.
He said it's very common for prisoners to be taken to the sheriff's office for questioning, because they have rooms that are equipped with audio and video recording equipment. He said Lavergne was checked back in around 3:30 PM in the afternoon.
Police say they strongly believe the remains they found buried in a cemetery off of La. Highway 10 to be Shunick.
Shunick Remains Update
According to the Lafayette Parish Coroner's office, the body found Tuesday in Evangeline parish, believed to be Mickey Shunick, has been sent to a face identification expert at Louisiana State University.
Keith Talamo, chief medicolegal investigator at the coroner's office, said Wednesday Mary Manhein at the LSU FACES Laboratory will be handling the investigation of the body. Police found it buried at a cemetery about 100 yards off of La. Highway 10.
Talamo said it will be 24-48 hours before they will be able to identify the remains.
Cpl. Paul Mouton, spokesman for the Lafayette Police Department, said a credible witness lead them to the site Tuesday morning. He said they strongly believe the body belongs to the university student who went missing in May.
LPD Press Release
Lafayette, LA – On the morning of August 7, 2012, investigators involved in the Mickey Shunick case received credible information as to the location of Mickey Shunick's body. Investigators were directed to a section of property off of Louisiana Highway 10, near its intersection with Louisiana Highway 13, in Evangeline Parish. Upon going to the site, they discovered an area where a buried body was located. Working with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office, the Lafayette Metro crime scene technicians began processing the scene with forensic experts from LSU.
At approximately 8:30 pm, the body was removed from the scene by the Lafayette Parish Coroner's Office and transported back to Lafayette Parish. Although investigators strongly believe that the body is that of Mickey Shunick, it may take 3 days for the identification process to be completed. The investigation remains ongoing