Mickey Shunick is a 22-year-old college student who disappeared while riding her bicycle to her home in Lafayette, LA at about 2:00 a.m., on Saturday, May 19, 2012. Nobody believes that she is missing because she wants to be, so she is clearly the victim of a crime. Although law enforcement and volunteer searches, while extensive, have thus far failed to locate the petite 5’1”, 115 pound blond anthropology major, recent developments suggest that this case can be solved.
There have been two big breaks in the case. The first involves surveillance video images that confirm a timeline and the route she took after leaving a friend’s house. Discovered on May 25, the surveillance images also identify three vehicles driving the same route near the time that she disappeared. The second break, while more disturbing is equally significant. Her black Schwinn bicycle has been located 27-miles from her last known location.
Two of the vehicles identified in the surveillance images and their occupants have been located and cleared of involvement in Mickey’s disappearance. However, a late model white 4-door Chevrolet Z-71 pickup truck that was travelling the same direction as Mickey when she disappeared has not yet been found.
In a potentially stunning development, the white Chevrolet Z-71 was immediately recognized by Lafayette resident Tasha Patterson. Two months previously, the driver of the pickup truck offered her a ride while she was on her bicycle at approximately 2:00 a.m. Upon accepting the ride the middle aged white driver offered Tasha money for sex. She declined his offer. Before dropping her off unharmed the heavyset driver told her that he “Rides around town all the time trying to pick up pretty girls.” If this is true, a predator may be cruising the streets and byways of Lafayette, LA at all hours of the day and night.
On Sunday, May 27, two fishermen discovered Mickey’s bike 27-miles east of Lafayette, partially submerged in the Atchafalaya River, beneath the Whiskey Bay I-10 Bridge, in Iberville Parish. After family members confirmed that the bike belonged to Mickey, the authorities sent it to the Louisiana State Police Forensic Lab for testing. They simultaneously began searching the area under the bridge for clues and evidence using CSI units, grid searches, helicopters, and boats.
The Police do not believe that Mickey rode her bike to the bridge. Instead they suspect that she was the victim of a hit and run and that the bike was driven to and dumped in the river to cover up that crime. Because I-10 is a heavily traveled highway and it is difficult to pull off the road near the bridge without being exposed to traffic, they believe that the bike was driven to the shore and purposefully submerged in hopes that it would not be discovered. According to Paul Mouton, of the Lafayette Police Department, “We strongly believe that the person, or perpetrator, drove down to the edge of the water and dumped the bike into the water for it not to be found”. The search was discontinued on May 28, but not before authorities found tire tracks leading up to the spot where Mickey’s bike was junked. On May 29, police acknowledged that Mickey’s black Schwinn bicycle had a bent back rim and damaged back tire.
The authorities have the bike, but where is Mickey Shunick? Workable scenarios include: the route between her last known surveillance camera image and her home; the area where her bike was dumped; and finally that she is being held captive by a predator. If there was a fatal accident near her home, the perpetrator might have walked her body deep into the brush and hidden it. Law enforcement and volunteer search efforts should focus on that area and pay special attention to culverts, drainage ditches, debris piles and other possible hiding places. If that doesn’t work the focus should shift to the 1-10 bridge. The person who submerged her bike beneath the bridge might have felt comfortable enough to dispose of her body in the same area. It is troubling that the search was concluded after only a day. Dogs should be brought in, areas downstream should be searched and areas already searched should be covered again. Finally, and this is the only viable scenario for Mickey still being alive, a predator was cruising, in a Chevy pickup or possibly another vehicle, caused her to crash and snatched her off the street.
Whether a predator is roaming the roads, or an accident is being concealed, this case can be solved. Social media and word of mouth have helped her case to become very high profile as hundreds of volunteers have assisted in community search efforts. Clues abound. Surveillance video has identified a vehicle of interest, and if Tasha Patterson is correct that the driver of the Chevrolet Z-71 constantly cruises Lafayette, it shouldn’t be long before that man and his pickup are located. The police have neither completed nor released the results of forensic testing, but the bike was only submerged in the river for days and not weeks or months. Therefore, as scientists scour the frame, handlebars, and wheels for fingerprints, DNA, or paint from the vehicle that may be responsible for Mickey’s disappearance, there is a good chance that they will find something. Then, hopefully, they will have enough pieces to finish the puzzle and solve this mystery.