Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 84

Why do certain volunteers return time after time? In their own words.

 

“I am a mother and Sierra is everyone’s daughter.” Linda

 

“As a nurse, I am genuinely interested in public safety. As a human being, my heart goes out to victims and family members of those lost to atrocity. Random acts of kindness are necessary to keep communities living together in peace.” Jennifer

 

“My son was almost abducted at the age of 5. I thank God every day that he was not abducted and that I get to see him grow old.” Peg

 

“There are many reasons that bring me to the Sierra Search Center. Aside from all the beautiful smiles, endless hugs, and overwhelming feelings of Hope & Love…Sierra LaMar is the #1 reason for my continuous attendance.” Teresa

 

“I didn’t know about it til the second day. My friend told me about it and my sister brought me. I’ve been coming to volunteer ever since.” Arleen

 

“I’ve been through a similar situation and was fortunate to get my daughter back after 2 months. Now I need to come to help find Sierra.” Janetta

 

“I have daughters!!” Ed

 

“My reasons have changed since the first day I walked in the door. Initially, I began volunteering because in 2010 my 16 year old niece Jordan was killed in a drunk driving accident. I wanted to ‘pay it forward’ by helping. I am now here and feel very privileged o be given the honor of looking for Sierra.” 

“My heart is driven towards this cause. I see her YouTube videos of her silly dances, face gestures and it breaks my heart that she is not home yet with her family. When I see her parents I want to put together words to take away the grief in their faces, but I know the only thing I can do is keep assisting in trying to get their precious daughter home.” Emma

 

“Sierra is everyone’s daughter. I help because I don’t want the animal that did this to have any bargaining power. I do this because I want to see closure for the family.” Autumn

 

“I have 2 daughters. One is 2 days younger than Sierra. No family should ever have to go through this alone.” Renee

 

“To find Sierra! Yes, I am that way, plus I have the ‘Best’ search team here!” Doug

 

“I answered the call for Michelle Le in Hayward. Found that it touched a spot in my heart. I’m retired, I have the time and I actually enjoy the search.” Carolyn

 

“When they announced the first search date I knew in my heart that I wanted to help. I am only one person but I want to make a difference and end this family’s nightmare!” Erika

 

“Enough! I’d had enough of hearing about missing kids on the news while sitting on the sidelines. I’ve come to be so impressed and inspired by the heroes in the Bay Area…Those selfless volunteers that search the area, work in the office and auditorium and those wonderful ‘kitchen ladies.’” Roger

 

“Initially I felt an immediate connection to the case because I have two daughter’s ages 16 and 14, and also because we are newer to the area, just like Sierra.” Christie

 

“My reason for volunteering is a loss that I went through. My cousin was 16 and killed in a drunk driving accident. Though it’s not similar to Sierra I know the feeling of a loss. I love the new search family I’ve developed and I just want Sierra home.” Sandina

 

“I am a retired law enforcement officer and throughout those years of service my heart was always very troubled when I would hear of child abduction or a missing child. I prayed often for Sierra to be found and that God would be with her immediate family, giving them hope.” Tony

 

“I can’t imagine not knowing where my child is. When I saw in the paper that Sierra was missing, I came to see if I could help in any way. Now I come because I feel like Sierra is a part of my family.” Karah

 

“Sierra LaMar was my next door neighbor until September 2011, when she moved to Morgan Hill. When she disappeared, I had no doubt that I would be helping to bring Sierra home.” Carol

 

“My cousin goes to school, takes the same bus and is friends with Sierra. I showed up on the second day. Now I work inside the command center getting people signed up. We won’t give up and won’t stop till Sierra’s home.” Nikki

 

“I came to Morgan Hill as a young bride in 1960. This is my town. When one of our daughters goes missing and is hurt – we all hurt.” Loretta

 

“I’ve been considering helping with SAR since Sandra Cantu went missing in Tracy and Michelle Le went missing in Hayward. This time I thought I’d commit to helping out to find Sierra.” Bob

 

“I am retired from motorcycle accident. God open door on me and gave me the opportunity and strength to help find Sierra and bring her home safe. Don’t just read or just say…JUST DO IT!” Karl

 

“I am humbled to be in the company of heroes.” Marc Klaas

Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 80

The call came in exactly 20-hours after Polly was kidnapped from a slumber party in her home. Violet and I had left our home in Sausalito that morning, but a trusted relative was housesitting for us just in case she did call. The sun had gone down, dusk was settling over the valley and I was beginning to freak out when we were informed about the phone call. The situation, which was becoming darker by the minute, suddenly looked like it might turn into a weekend adventure after all. We exhaled a sigh of relief and waited for law enforcement to wrap up the case.

 

Somebody has been masquerading as Sierra LaMar in various social network communities. This activity began not long after she was reported missing. On April 18, it was through her twitter account. Initially, Sierra’s sister Danielle thought that the post might be from her sister, but she quickly realized that if Sierra wanted to communicate to her family, she would call and not post online. The most recent postings occurred on June 18: first an Instagram message, and then a Facebook posting. Danielle considers these most recent hoaxes as nothing more than a mean spirited sideshow.

 

The minutes dragged into the deep night and then the early morning hours and we still hadn’t heard back from the authorities. It had all seemed so simple. The message was brief and unambiguous, “It’s me, Polly! I’m at the Day’s Inn in Daly City. Hurry, he’s coming back,” and then the line went dead. So, what was taking so long, and why hadn’t they rescued her yet?

 

Hoaxes are never funny or clever. They are nothing more than lies disguised as truth, designed to misdirect and obscure, oftentimes with devastating results. Unless it is April Fool’s Day, and they are executed in the spirit of fun, hoaxes have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. When you are dealing with life or death situations, such as a missing child event, hoaxes are a cruel display of ignorance and a lack of empathy for people in dire straits.

 

By 3:00 a.m. I was staring at the ceiling of a motel room in Petaluma. There were others in the room and the regulated breathing indicated that they were asleep. I got up, put on my shoes and shirt and quietly left the room. There was a slight chill in the air and the full moon lighted the sky. I crossed the street. All was quiet as I walked to the middle of the empty supermarket parking lot. I fell to my knees and unloaded a banshee scream that could be heard in the heavens because I needed the attention of the God who had forsaken my child.

 

It’s bad enough that false hope is raised for a short period of time only to be replaced by cold, hard reality. Other dynamics are at work as well. As much as we search for Sierra, opine about Sierra and pray for her safe return, the ultimate resolution of this case is in the hands of the authorities. They need to maintain their focus and pursue solid evidence and leads. The Sierra LaMar Taskforce has to redirect its investigation to deal with false leads, hard rumors, and lies. This costs time, drains resources and may cost the victim dearly. It affects morale and delays justice.

 

After some period of time had passed I felt a hand upon my shoulder. I turned and looked up into Violet’s eyes, illuminated in the moonlight. I knew that she shared my agony, and wordlessly we returned to the motel, entering quietly so as not to wake up the rest of my family. At 8:00 a.m., approximately 12-hours after my brother-in-law received the call from the little girl, the FBI told me that there was no Days Inn in Daly City. They had searched every motel in Daly City as well as every Day’s Inn from San Francisco to San Jose only to realize that the phone call was nothing more than a hoax.

 

These Internet hoaxes are the product of a malicious, weak mind. They bring a degree of shame on a community that has otherwise responded magnificently to the plight of a child who found comfort and delight in the very social media communities that now seem to conspire against her.

 

By the time the next call came a week later the FBI had put a trap on our phone. My sister-in-law answered and kept the girl on line long enough to trace the source. She also asked her to describe the poster above her bed, which she couldn’t do. She was 13-years-old and was just pulling a prank: a mean spirited stunt that had no purpose other than piling on the agony and offering a moment of false hope.

To Protect and Serve: A Tale of Two Dads

As long as law enforcement serves and protects the innocent against criminal activity, personal retribution is not an option. However, when public safety institutions fail to take action against known criminals and do not intervene to assist victims whose safety is at risk, then they seem to be serving and protecting criminal activity. When criminal justice is perceived as justice for criminals, and victims are ignored, desperate people will seek desperate solutions. I do not condone vigilante justice, but justice must be served, and in the case of the death of Calvin Sneed, a known pimp, the burden of justice was placed squarely on the shoulders of Barry Gilton and Lupe Mercado.

 

On Saturday, June 9 a party in Shiner, TX turned deadly when a 23-year-old father caught a 47-year-old acquaintance sexually molesting his 4-year-old daughter. The young dad beat the man to death on the spot. Thus far, no charges have been filed as Nancy Grace and a slew of experts and pundits, including me, have lauded the young man as a “father of the year,” for his impulsive, deadly action. The District Attorney has sent the case to the Grand Jury. If the Grand Jury does file charges it will probably be impossible to find a Texas jury that would convict this father for protecting his young daughter from a violent sex crime.

 

Calvin Sneed

At 2:00 a.m., on Monday June 4, 22-year-old pimp Calvin Sneed was gunned down near San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. On June 9, Barry Gilton and Lupe Mercado were charged with murdering Sneed, conspiracy to commit murder and one count of discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle. They are both being held in lieu of $2-million bail.

 

About a year ago Barry Gilton and Lupe Mercado’s 17-year-old daughter was lured away from her San Francisco home by 22-year-old Calvin Sneed. Soon, Snead was forcing their daughter to have sex with strangers throughout California. Upon learning that their daughter was appearing in on-line escort ads, Gilton and Mercado entered her in several missing and exploited children registries and sought help from several law enforcement agencies. The authorities were either unable or unwilling to assist. San Francisco Attorney General George Gascon said that as a father, he understood “the frustration that the parents must have felt…. But taking the law into your own hands is not an acceptable solution.”

 

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), signed into law by President Bush in 2000, sex trafficking occurs when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. In California the age of consent is 18, so clearly laws were being violated. Yet the authorities refused to help when desperate parents asked them to intervene when a pimp forced their underage daughter to have sex with strangers over the long term.

 

Pimping involves a complex relationship between a male pimp and one or more women and/or girls. The pimp wields complete control and induces commercial sex acts in order to make money. The pimp attains authoritative levels of control and obedience through intense manipulation that begins during the grooming process. Manipulations include feigned affection, brutal violence, and verbal, psychological, and/or emotional abuse. This breaking-down phase takes a girl from healthy adolescent sexual boundaries to commercial sex with strangers.  This process has been widely-documented and replicated by pimps nationwide. In the trafficking paradigm, this process involves force, fraud, and coercion.

 

Seasoning often involves beating the girls with hands, fists, and kicking, as well as with objects such as bats, tools, chains, and cords. Burning of personal items to foster hopelessness and demoralization or directly burning women and girls using cigarette/cigar butts is another common tactic. Underage prostitutes also fear rape or gang rape, being locked in closets, the trunks of cars or rooms for indeterminate amounts of time. They also face other torture techniques such as food or water deprivation, or various forms of bondage such as chaining individuals to items or tying them up; direct verbal insults, name-calling, threats, mind control, brainwashing, cognitive re-programming, and other mind boggling forms of violence.

 

It is well-documented that pimps establish mandatory monetary quotas that typically range from $500 – $1,000. The women and girls under their control must fulfill their quota in order to end each night of commercial sex. Quotas are strictly enforced, and the punishment for failing to meet a quota is severe physical retaliation from the pimp. In pimp-controlled situations, the women and girls keep zero of this money and turn over 100-percent of the profits to the pimp.


Why don’t underage prostitutes leave, given that it is a difficult life and the pimp has all the advantages? For a wide variety of reasons, girls under a pimp’s control will often not self-identify as victims of human trafficking or seek help on their own for a variety of reasons. They may be locked indoors. They face or fear severe physical retaliation, including beatings and rape, if they are caught trying to escape. The pimp threatens reprisals against family members. The girls feel shame about the activities they have been forced to perform. They may have a debt to the pimp that they believe they need to pay off or feel loyalty, similar to Stockholm syndrome, to the pimp. They may be resigned to their fate, or may have no personal resources to assist them. Finally, the girls may distrust law enforcement, and given the current scenario, that is perfectly understandable.

 

San Francisco’s District Attorney says that, “Deadly force is only justified when you’re defending someone from an immediate threat of deadly force or great bodily injury”. Calvin Sneed was a monster who forced Gilton and Mercado’s underage daughter onto the street at all hours, demanded that she have sex with any stranger willing to pay the price, and advertised her in online sex ads. She was a defenseless girl, subject to AIDS and numerous other STD’s, oftentimes alone with anonymous strangers who lurk in the night. What part of that scenario does not constitute a, “threat of deadly force or great bodily injury”? The District Attorney says that they are looking into whether or not, “She was there willingly or forced to be there,” however according to the law that is not a consideration. She is an underage serial crime victim that the authorities were unwilling to acknowledge let alone rescue. Her parents attempted numerous avenues of legal recourse and were shut down every time.

 

Attorneys for Gilton and Mercado say that the couple is innocent. They acknowledge that they had a motive, but point out that there are no eye witnesses and no murder weapon. Gilton’s attorney Eric Safire points out that, “What we do know is that the victim is a known gang member, he was out at 2 a.m. in a high crime area—I can only presume he was engaged in his normal and customary [pimping] activities. He was subject to gang violence.”

 

What’s wrong with this picture? How can we condemn a parent, no matter what they do, for protecting their child? Whether it’s being caught in the immediacy of the victimization or watching from home as their child is being serially victimized in the public arena. Parents are fighting for and having to protect their children, who are being sexually victimized, in ways that are illegal, either because law enforcement is not present or refuses to make themselves present. As the parent of a murdered child, I understand. If I were given the chance to protect and save Polly I would have done whatever I needed to do, including shooting her killer, who now sits on California’s death row, to death. We need to protect our children. Whether it is writing new laws or enforcing existing laws. If it means keeping perpetrators behind bars, or forcing law enforcement to handle cases in times of tight budgets, we need to support parents, who are victims themselves, to protect and preserve their children from violent criminal activity.

Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 73

I am very concerned that we haven’t found Sierra. This has to be one of history’s largest sustained searches for a missing person. 7,952 search volunteers have been dispatched on 750 search assignments that have blanketed a 20 mile radius around Sierra’s home and we haven’t found anything relevant to her disappearance.

 

Last week the terms of the reward were altered to include, “Information leading to the conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the disappearance of Sierra LaMar,” and no one has yet come forward. This morning Steve and Danielle LaMar held a press conference that was very well-attended by local media to announce that the reward has been increased to $35,000. We continue to dispatch dozens of searchers on scheduled search days. They search new areas and high probability areas that have been previously searched. Despite our lack of progress morale remains high.

 

We have inspired, cajoled, and manipulated every angle that I can think of to recover Sierra, yet her location continues to elude our grasp. If I thought that it would help to resolve this case I would get down on my hands and knees to grovel and beg for an endgame. What is this brick wall that we keep hitting, and what will it take to move it?

 

The perp and his family have amply demonstrated that they are not criminal masterminds. His claim that he never met Sierra is dispelled by the fact that police have his DNA on her clothing and evidence that she was in his car. His mother believes that he is innocent, but admits that she is not his shadow. To think that he hid her so successfully and kept that information to himself is patently absurd. I think that he has confided his secret: but to whom?

 

Near the end of the search day I received a call from my old friend Mike Reynolds. Mike is the father of California’s 3-Strikes and You’re Out law which became a voter driven statute in 1994. He told me that there is an initiative on California’s November ballot to overturn the law. 3-Strike holds career criminals accountable by providing penalty enhancements for subsequent felonies. I am struck by the irony of this latest effort to soft step crime and return dangerous criminals to the very communities that are already so dangerous that we cannot let our daughters walk alone for fear that they will be victimized.

Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 68

Midsi Sanchez at Find Sierra Search Center

Midsi Sanchez is not a household name like Elizabeth Smart or Jaycee Dugard, but she is a kidnap survivor. Unlike Elizabeth or Jaycee, Midsi demonstrated extraordinary courage during her darkest moment and affected her own escape.

 

On August 10, 2000 8-year-old Midsi Sanchez was abducted while walking home from school in Vallejo, California. After being chained to the gear shift of the kidnapper’s car for 44-hours, she grabbed the keys when he left momentarily, unlocked her ankle shackles and fled. Her courageous act not only saved her own life, but it resulted in the arrest and successful prosecution of Curtis Dean Anderson, a known pedophile who subsequently admitted that he kidnapped and murdered another young Vallejo resident named Xiana Fairchild.

 

Midsi returned home in triumph and was showered with honors and awards, including National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s first ever Courage Award on May 17, 2001. The next several years were difficult for Midsi. Schoolmates demanded to know the gruesome details of the ordeal that she only wanted to forget. Girls at school taunted her, ostracized her, and finally pushed her to the point of no return. Midsi ended up on the streets of Vallejo, strung out on drugs and alcohol.

 

Sandra Cantu

On March 27, 2009 8-year-old Sandra Cantu was reported missing by her family. Seeing Sandra’s missing flyer helped lead Midsi to her true purpose in life. She reached out to console Sandra’s family and can still see the pain in her mother’s eyes. Midsi says that, “I had to dig deep down inside of the little girl who escaped from the pervert and recover that same courage that helped her get away.”

On May 1, 2009 Midsi was involved in a drinking and driving automobile accident. She flew out an automobile window at 90 mph and broke her neck. “I saw that as God’s way of saying stop, be still. This is not the path I want you to follow.” Exactly two weeks after being discharged from the hospital, Midsi learned that she was going to be a mother. She says, “That was the day my life took a change for the better. I became sober, healthy and able to think and plan with clarity.”

Midsi and Marc Klaas

For the past two years Midsi has been an active volunteer for the KlaasKids Foundation. “Working with KlaasKids has taught me the importance of utilizing the press in missing persons’ cases, that I can help the families of missing children by providing council, organizing fundraisers, or simply providing a hug or smile. At the end of the day I want the families to see me as an example of what is possible, not what is probable.”

 

Midsi and Marlene LaMar

Shortly after learning of the disappearance of Sierra LaMar Midsi started attending vigils to support the missing girl’s family. At the first vigil Midsi introduced herself to Sierra’s mother, father and sister. After telling her story to the attendant crowd Marlene LaMar thanked Midsi, telling her that, “You made me feel so much better.”

 

In the months since Sierra’s disappearance Midsi has been a regular presence at the Find Sierra Search Center, always ready with a hug, a word of encouragement or a project. In early April Midsi and her friend Davina Joy organized a youth brigade to give Sierra’s peers a way to help in the search. They organized flyer distributions, poster creations, car washes and other activities.

 

Midsi Sanchez is not a household name like Elizabeth Smart or Jaycee Dugard, but she is a kidnap survivor and she is in the trenches regularly sharing her special gift with those who need it the most: the families of the missing.

Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 66

He’s been to court twice now without entering a plea. The only words that he has spoken are, “Yes your honor”. There have been no developments in the case since Antolin Garcia-Torres was arrested for kidnapping and murdering Sierra LaMar on May 22. Sierra’s disappearance, which seemed on the verge of being solved 15-days ago, now seems as far from resolution as ever. Clearly, something needs to be done.

That’s why the terms of the $25,000 reward for the safe return of Sierra LaMar are being changed to include, “Information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for the disappearance of Sierra LaMar”. Rewards aid law enforcement in arresting and successfully prosecuting crimes by providing financial consideration in exchange for information that will resolve a crime.

 

In theory, there are always people who know more about a given crime than they are initially willing to admit. They may be family, friends, acquaintances or simply somebody who saw or heard something that they were not supposed to see or hear. Often times these people require incentive before they are willing to come forward and divulge closely held secrets.

 

Rewards are clearly viable and have assisted in numerous cases over the years. One organization, Secret Witness, in Reno, Nevada has been providing rewards for more than 30-years. Secret Witness has grown from taking five or six calls a month to more than 200. Tips have helped solve more than 1,000 crimes, including 30 murders. That includes information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible for the 2008 kidnap and murder of 19-year-old college student Briana Denison.

 

Good people clearly want to do the right thing. Sometimes they just need motivation. First of all, providing valuable information that will result in a conviction is the right thing to do. Sierra and her family deserve nothing less. We all have, or love children. So we should put ourselves in Steve and Marlene LaMar’s shoes. If our daughter were missing we would want others to assist in bringing our child home. Finally, at the end of the night most of us are exhausted and ready for bed. The last thing that we need to ponder as we surrender to sleep is whether or not God knows what is in our hearts and minds.

 

If you are not the perp, but you know more than you are saying, providing information is not simply about good or evil. In the final analysis it’s simply about getting your priorities straight. Whether you are bound by humanity, spirituality or some other moral value, sometimes we simply need an extra incentive to do the right thing. That’s what rewards are about. Or at least we hope so, and after all, the reason that why we continue to show up to look for Sierra day after day is because hope reigns eternal.

One Year Later – Where’s Lauren?

Lauren Spierer

A year ago today, 20-year-old Indiana student Lauren Spierer went missing shortly before dawn. She was last seen walking home alone after a night out with friends, clearly intoxicated, barefoot and without her cell phone at 4:30am. Her friend saw her reach the corner of his street, and that’s the last that anyone has seen of the young student.

 

Lauren’s story captured national headlines quickly. She reminds many of their own daughter, sister, friend; Lauren is young, beautiful, loves apparel and fashion, and was simply enjoying life like many other young 20 somethings do. Fortunately, most people and families aren’t touched by the tragedy that Lauren and her family are enduring every day. But for the Spierer’s, today marks an unbearable 365 days.


Living with the unknown for a year is truly unimaginable. Your emotions are suspended in limbo; how do you progress forward without moving on? Your heart, mind and memories are attached to a happier, sturdier past, where life was still normal and you didn’t have pained questions that bear you no answers.You grasp to quirky details of how your loved one laughs, or talks, or gives you a hug. There is still a chance, you say, of them walking through your door safe. Alive.

 

During a search, time is an impossible concept. It flies swiftly by, leaving you wondering how so many days passed when every minute seems to drag on. When are you allowed to grieve? Do you go back to work? Do you strive to get your life back to normal even though your entire being wants to be out searching for them? I remember feeling guilty for laughing, sleeping or relaxing, knowing that my loved one may be out there struggling to survive. Unless every decision and action I made contributed to her search; I lived and breathed it. How do the Spierers make it through 365 days of that?

Father Robert, Sister Rebecca,and Mother Charlene Spierer

Oh, and all the scenarios that your imagination wanders through are torturous. Smoke and mirrors. What if they’re locked up somewhere, held captive? What if they were sold to a sex trade, being trafficked in Mexico? How much money should we start saving for any psychiatric or physical recovery? What if… what if we tried hard enough, passed out enough fliers, conducted enough searches, raised enough reward money, got in front of enough cameras, that someone out there will finally give us an answer? Or better yet, if we just tried hard enough, will someone out there finally have the decency to give her back to us?

 

But out of all the stories that you tell yourself, not one of them includes your loved one being dead. Not one. It doesn’t matter the statistics and slim chances, the accusations, charges and arrests – until there is solid, tangible evidence that your loved one is gone, there is always positivity. There is always hope. Hope is the only lifeboat you have when you suddenly find yourself drowning in the life you were thrown into.

 


For Lauren’s family, my heart aches for them as they seek the truth of what happened to their loved one. All of Lauren’s friends are accused of being too silent. Why would they let her walk home alone at that hour without shoes and a phone? Do her friends really know more than they are letting on? They all got lawyered up pretty quickly. Is she out there trying to find her way back home?

 

There is simply nothing fair in knowing that someone out there secretly knows more about Lauren’s whereabouts than her family does. It baffles me how her abductor’s conscience hasn’t budged since June of 2011; it’s monstrous.

 

Lauren Spierer is 4’11″, petite at 95 lbs with blonde hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing black pants and a white top. For more information about Lauren and her search, please visit www.findlauren.com.

Mickey Shunick and the Night Rider

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.