On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Keith Stutes turned over in court filings pretrial discovery in the first-degree murder cases against Brandon Scott Lavergne. Lavergne was indicted July 18 for aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder of UL student Mickey Shunick in May. In what caught many by surprise, he was also indicted that day for killing Lisa Pate in 1999; in 2008 a grand jury in Acadia Parish found that there was not enough evidence to indict him for her murder.
Lavergne has pleaded not guilty to both murders.
Stutes’ “Disclosure, Production, Notice to Defendant, and Request for State’s Discovery” reveals for the first time that 36 search warrants were obtained during the Shunick investigation, covering everything from a tracking device for Lavergne’s Chevy Silverado to OnStar records in Lafayette and East Baton Rouge parishes for his vehicle; an Allied Waste dumpster that was previously located at 1235 Leger Road in Church Point; and various parcels in the Lawtell and Church Point areas.
Sources close to the investigation tell The Independent that when officials searched Lavergne’s home at 143 Elaine Lane in Church Point on July 5, they found several women’s IDs and bloodied images Lavergne took of himself sometime after Shunick went missing May 19.
Stutes’ filing indicates that the state has a “written or recorded confession or statement” Lavergne made voluntarily to Lt. Jack Lightfoot of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office at the Lafayette Police Department after he was advised of his rights in July. Also, Stutes intends to present evidence that while Lavergne was in custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections — he served eight years for blindfolding, tying up and sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman in April 1999, less than two months before Pate was killed — he made statements relevant to the Pate case to three people identified in court filings only by initials.
In the Shunick case, he made an “oral confession or statement” to at least 13 people from April 20 to June 14, including his family members, according to the filing. Those individuals are listed by initials only or as “persons” affiliated with a law enforcement or other agency or company. It's unclear if the state plans to call all of them as witnesses.
Lavergne also made a false claim with State Farm Insurance Co. that his vehicle had been stolen when he had actually destroyed it himself, Stutes alleges, and attempted to bribe an official with the Department of Motor Vehicles if the official would issue him a license without the required “sex offender” notice. Stutes claims Lavergne offered a $500 bribe.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
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.