Shunick1Sources say Brandon Scott Lavergne led authorities to Mickey Shunick’s body as part of a plea agreement that will spare his life.
By Leslie Turk
August 15, 2012

Sources close to the investigation of Brandon Scott Lavergne, accused of killing 21-year-old UL Lafayette student Mickey Shunick, say Lavergne’s attorneys negotiated a plea bargain with the district attorney’s office that will avoid a lengthy death penalty trial. Instead, the 33-year-old registered sex offender will serve a life sentence for her kidnapping and murder.

Sources say Brandon Scott Lavergne led authorities to Mickey Shunick’s body as part of a plea agreement that will spare his life.
By Leslie Turk
August 15, 2012
   

Shunick1
Sources tell The Independent Brandon Scott Lavergne led authorities to this rural site in Evangeline Parish, where they unearthed the remains of missing UL student Mickey Shunick.

Sources close to the investigation of Brandon Scott Lavergne, accused of killing 21-year-old UL Lafayette student Mickey Shunick, say Lavergne’s attorneys negotiated a plea bargain with the district attorney’s office that will avoid a lengthy death penalty trial. Instead, the 33-year-old registered sex offender will serve a life sentence for her kidnapping and murder.

Shunick’s body was discovered in rural Evangeline Parish last week, buried near a small church cemetery located between Reddell and Oakdale.

Any plea agreement would have to be accepted by 15th Judicial District Judge Herman Clause, who has been assigned to the case.

The Independent has confirmed through multiple sources that the “very credible” tip investigators received about the location of Shunick’s remains came from Lavergne, who for reasons law enforcement won’t disclose was checked out of the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center by the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office last Tuesday at 6:40 a.m. and brought back to the facility between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. A “custody form” from LPSO states his check-out time as 6:40 a.m., and LPSO spokesman Kip Judice, who consulted with the deputy who signed Lavergne out, told The Independent Lavergne was returned approximately nine hours later. “Any destinations beyond LPSO would have to be answered by the Lafayette Police PIO,” Judice says.

“We were with the sheriff’s office when they signed him out,” says Lafayette Police Department spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton. “We worked jointly with them.” Mouton would not say why Lavergne was checked out or whether he was brought to Evangeline Parish to assist in the location of Shunick’s remains.

In all likelihood Lavergne’s cooperation was key in the plea negotiation; prosecutors indicated soon after his July indictment that they would seek the death penalty. Lavergne has pleaded not guilty.

Shunick2 Shunick3
Mickey Shunick Lisa Pate

Prior to the discovery of Shunick’s body, legal experts The Independent consulted believed Lavergne might avoid a death penalty trial if he cooperated by telling investigators where to find her remains.

Sources say that Shunick’s family was consulted during the plea bargaining process, but the family has not confirmed its involvement.

“To my knowledge, no plea bargain has been arranged,” Shunick’s father, Tom, told The Independent last Wednesday through Margaret Bearb, a friend of the family.

The Independent was unable to determine what the potential guilty plea in the Shunick case will mean for the other murder charge Lavergne faces — the 1999 killing of 35-year-old Lisa Pate. Prosecutors dropped a bombshell July 5 when they secured a first-degree murder indictment against Lavergne for Pate’s death — who like Shunick disappeared without a trace — while also indicting him for the aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder of Shunick. District Attorney Mike Harson told The Daily Advertiser in late July that it was likely the cases would be tried together, which also may indicate that a deal was worked out for both murders.

Lafayette criminal defense attorney William Goode, who is not involved in either of these cases, says if a plea bargain for a life sentence was struck, it could cover any additional crimes Lavergne may be linked to down the road. Goode notes that as part of a potential plea bargain, Lavergne may have agreed to two life sentences that would run consecutively. “I would try to get the state to let this be the end of it,” the attorney says. “In other words, if they determine there is something else out there he would already be in jail for life.”

Lavergne’s defense attorney, Burleigh Doga, declined comment for this story, as did Assistant District Attorney Keith Stutes, the lead prosecutor in the Shunick and Pate cases.

The pain from the loss of their beloved Mickey its own life sentence, the Shunick family — while it will likely avoid the years-long agony associated with a death penalty case — is just beginning its mourning process. “Reality hits hard,” Bearb says.

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