The white trucks, arson, stab wounds, poison ivy, bloody pictures of himself, women’s IDs. Brandon Scott Lavergne has a lot to explain. By Leslie Turk
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Lafayette Police believe the only victim of circumstance they’ll be talking about Wednesday is Mickey Shunick. It’s highly likely Brandon Scott Lavergne will be indicted today, but without her body, local police will rely on a wealth of circumstantial evidence to convince a grand jury he kidnapped and killed her. Lavergne was arrested July 5 for the aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder of the 21-year-old UL Lafayette student.
For starters, just how did Lavergne get all those injuries on May 19, the day Shunick went missing, and were the stories he told law enforcement in Jefferson Parish, health care workers at two separate hospitals and friends and relatives consistent? Sources with knowledge of the investigation involving the 33-year-old convicted sex offender tell The Independent Lavergne was treated for his May 19 injuries at Opelousas General; among the most serious was a lacerated finger requiring surgery. Shunick was last seen in the early morning hours of May 19 riding her bicycle in the downtown Lafayette area.
A City Hall security camera captured her on her bike at 1:48 a.m. that day on St. Landry Street near University Avenue, about the same time a white Chevrolet Z71 was caught on tape at the intersection traveling in the same direction. Lafayette police say that truck was driven by Lavergne, whom they contend later set fire to it in San Jacinto County, Texas, within days of the images being released to the public. Sources say the fire burned so hot that the entire truck was consumed in flames, destroying most — if not all — potential evidence in the case. Police have not said whether they were able to collect any evidence from the truck.
Our sources would not confirm information we received that Lavergne rented a car for his return trip home after telling his insurance company that his truck had been stolen. What is known is that once he returned home, Lavergne purchased another white Chevrolet Z71 from Don’s Wholesale in Lafayette to replace the one destroyed by arson.
The Independent reported last week that on the same day Shunick went missing, Lavergne was treated at Ochsner Hospital in the New Orleans area. He had been stabbed several times in the chest, back, neck and hand with a “knife/cutting instrument,” according to a report on the incident by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Lavergne told the deputy who interviewed him at the hospital that he was attacked outside of a gas station when he stopped to ask for directions but would not, or could not, provide any details about where the supposed incident occurred.
On Sunday The Independent learned and later confirmed with sources close to the investigation that Lavergne also went to the emergency room of Opelousas General, which is nearer his home in the Swords area of St. Landry Parish. Our sources say doctors at the hospital performed surgery on his finger, and note that at the time Lavergne also was suffering from an extensive breakout of poison ivy. It’s unclear if he went to the Opelousas hospital immediately after returning from New Orleans and whether he was treated on a single visit. It is worth noting that, depending on a person’s sensitivity, poison ivy breakouts can begin to appear within a few hours of contact with the plant.
While police believe Shunick is not alive, they have not said how they think Lavergne killed her.
Citing privacy laws, an Opelousas General official would neither confirm nor deny that Lavergne sought treatment there for his injuries.
The Independent has also learned that police in at least a couple of jurisdictions outside of Lafayette are investigating possible links between Lavergne and unsolved crimes against women. Our sources say that among the items retrieved from Lavergne’s home after his July 5 arrest were bloodied pictures he took of himself and an undisclosed number of women’s IDs.
“We have been contacted by other agencies regarding the arrest and have shared information,” Lafayette Police Department spokesman Paul Mouton writes in an email about whether Lavergne is being investigated for other crimes. “I cannot confirm the agencies that have contacted us in this investigation.”
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.