"She refuses to be a victim. My courageous child faced down a monster. Now I think I can face monsters too. And so can you."
-Nancy Anne Rowe, Mickey's Mother
It was the 19th of May 2012. A Saturday. Twenty one year old Michaela "Mickey" Shunick was due to attend her younger brother Zack's graduation that day with her family. She lived with her family on Governor Miro Drive in Lafayette, Louisiana, United States but the night before, the Friday night, Mickey went out with friends and when her family were leaving for the graduation on the Saturday morning, Mickey wasn't home.
Mickey loved to go out and meet friends but she was good at keeping commitments and was extremely close to her family so her family knew it was unusual that she wasn't there on time to leave with them for the graduation but they thought she may have fallen asleep at a friend's house and was just running late. But Mickey did not show up at all at the graduation ceremony so as soon as it was over, her family went home to see if she was there. She wasn't. And she wasn't answering any of their calls. Mickey's parents called a few of her friends. They discovered that she had been out on the Friday night with a number of friends but left to get some food with Brettly Wilson.
Brettly lived on Ryan Street, around four miles from where Mickey lived. He told Mickey's family that she left his house around 1.45am on the Saturday morning and she told him she was going home. She had her bicycle so wanted to cycle home. Mickey's family reported her missing to police.
Police spoke to Brettly. He told them that he went to a bar with Mickey on the Friday night around 10.15pm. They went to that bar to have a few drinks and listen to live music. He said afterwards, they both cycled back to his home and got his car and drove to a drive-thru Taco Bell. They went back to his house to have the food and then according to Brettly, some other friends were planning to meet up for some food but Mickey decided to just go home as she was tired.
Interview with Brettly Wilson
Police obtained surveillance footage from the bar and saw Mickey and Brettly on it. They were at the bar for around two and a half hours and it seemed like they had a good night and when they left, they did not appear to be drunk. Surveillance footage from Taco Bell showed Brettly buying food in the drive-thru section. Police then obtained surveillance footage from the route where Mickey would have cycled on her way home. It was not unusual for her to cycle home.
Surveillance Footage of Mickey Shunick
Police saw Mickey a number of times on the different footage they obtained from surveillance footage from different businesses along the route which showed her cycling past. Due to that, they were able to pinpoint the exact street where Mickey went missing from-St Landry Street. Further footage revealed that a white Chevy pickup truck was driving behind Mickey.
Surveillance Footage of the white truck
Police searched the area to see if Mickey's bicycle was there. They wanted to establish whether there had been a hit and run but they found nothing.
One week after Mickey went missing, her bicycle was found at Whiskey Bay on the Atchafalaya River, which was 25 miles from where she was last seen. It looked like it had been hit by a car.
Police released the surveillance footage of the white Chevy to the public and appealed for information. A citizen provided a tip to police which led police to Texas. A white Chevy had been burned out in Texas.
They traced it to the owner. The owner was Brandon Lavergne, a registered sex offender.
In 2000, Brandon was arrested and charged with oral sexual battery. It was alleged that in 1999, he broke into a woman's house, tied her up and forced her to perform a sexual act on him. He was sentenced to ten years for that crime but was released early, in 2008.
Police were able to place Brandon in the area where Mickey disappeared and also the area where her bicycle was found.
Police discovered that the day after Mickey went missing, Brandon checked himself into a hospital at New Orleans with stab wounds. Brandon said that he had been robbed at a gas station but could not provide details to the police.
Brandon was arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping and murder.
After his arrest, police confirmed that they found Mickey's body following a credible tip. Mickey's body was found in a remote wooded area beside a cemetery off Route 10 in Evangeline Parish. The area is about 45 miles from where she was last seen.
Police told Brandon that Prosecutors would be seeking the death penalty.
In exchange for taking the death penalty off the table, Brandon agreed to tell police what happened. In the early hours of the Saturday morning, the 19th of May, Brandon had been driving around Lafayette and saw Mickey. He followed her in his truck and hit her bicycle on purpose with his truck. Mickey fell off her bicycle and he forced her into his truck. Brandon put her bicycle in the bed of his truck. He had a knife and a semi-automatic handgun in his possession.
Mickey tried to call for help and when she reached for her phone, he threatened her with the knife. At that point, Mickey used the pepper spray she had on her to spray him in the face and she managed to get hold of his knife. Mickey stabbed him several times. He grabbed the knife and as a result, the tendons were cut in his hands.
He stabbed Mickey four times. Brandon told police that she fell over and wasn't moving. He checked for a pulse and there was none. He drove for forty minutes and found a secluded place. He wanted to bury her body there. But Mickey wasn't dead. She jumped up and grabbed his knife and stabbed him in the chest. Brandon got his gun and shot Mickey in the head. She died instantly.
Brandon was badly injured, his injuries were described as life threatening injuries, so he drove home with Mickey's body in the passenger seat of his truck instead of burying her body. He got rid of his clothes and tried to treat his wounds. Afterwards Brandon drove to an old cemetery in Evangeline Parish to bury Mickey. He could not dig a hole due to his injuries. He left Mickey's body in a nearby tree line and covered her body with branches and debris.
Brandon threw Mickey's bicycle under the bridge at Whiskey Bay.
Brandon then went to stay with a friend in New Orleans and he received treatment for his injuries at a hospital there. When he got back to Lafayette, he went to the cemetery and buried Mickey's body in the woods beside it.
Brandon drove to San Jacinto, Texas in his truck and burned it. He reported it stolen. He bought an almost identical vehicle so that suspicion would not be raised.
Brandon agreed to plead guilty to Mickey's murder to avoid the death penalty. But his confession didn't end there. He also pleaded guilty to a second murder. In June 1999, Lisa Pate disappeared. Brandon met her in Lafayette and persuaded her to go out of town with him. She tried to leave but he would not let her.
Police believed he killed her by putting a plastic bag over her head. Her body was found in September 1999.
Despite pleading guilty, Brandon has filed numerous appeals attempting to void his guilty pleas .He went on a hunger strike which lasted four days . He also tried to escape but was unsuccessful.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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