Surveillance video captured the night Mickey Shunick disappeared led investigators to Brandon Scott Lavergne, a registered sex offender arrested and charged with murder in connection with the Louisiana college student's disappearance.
Police arrested Lavergne, 33, Thursday at his home in Church Point, La., about 30 miles from where Michaela "Mickey" Shunick was last seen riding her bike. Lavergne has since been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping.
Lavergne's arrest came as the St. Landry Parish sheriff's department helped Lafayette police search Lavergne's residence for evidence.
Lavergne appears on the Louisiana Sate Police website as a registered sex offender. The website says Lavergne was convicted in 2000 of aggravated oral sexual battery. He was released from prison in 2008.
Lavergne appeared before a judge early Friday for a preliminary hearing, where it was learned that he will be kept in critical care in order to protect him from other prisoners, and that he will be represented by a public defender, KATC reported.
Lavergne was informed by the judge that his bond for kidnapping was set at $250,000, and that there would be no bond for the first-degree murder charge.
When asked if he is able to afford a lawyer for his defense, Lavergne said, "Not in a case like this, sir."
At a news conference Friday afternoon, Lafayette Chief of Police Jim Craft outlined how footage of Shunick the night of her disappearance eventually led detectives to identify the truck as belonging to Lavergne, and how police were able to place Lavergne in the area on May 19. He said that there is no known prior relationship between Shunick and Lavergne.
"The rear rim on [Shunick's] bicycle was consistent with being struck by a vehicle ... Based on the info we have, and the vehicle seen in the area, [we believe] he was riding around, looking for someone to victimize," Craft said.
Shunick, a senior at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, left friend Brettly Wilson's house on her bike just before 2 a.m. on May 19. More than a week after she went missing, Soon after Shunick's disappearance, police released a surveillance video showing her on a bicycle the night she disappeared. Police were trying to track down information about a white pickup truck seen on the same video.
Lavergne is listed on the sex offender website as having a white 2011 Chevrolet Silverado. Police Chief Craft said that he was initially arrested Thursday on a warrant related to his sex offender registration.
Police in San Jacinto County, Texas, told KATC that a burned-out pick-up truck was discovered there on June 14. Lafayette police are now investigating the vehicle in relation to Shunick's disappearance.
The Shunick family released a statement on Friday following the arrest from the Mickey Shunick Headquarters in Lafayette, La.
"All we want is Mickey back. All we care about is finding out what happened and getting our girl back. We are holding up fine and staying positive, the chances of her being alive today are the same as they were yesterday, and for that reason we are Keeping the Faith," the family said.
Margaret Bearb, the volunteer headquarters coordinator for the campaign to find Shunick, told ABC News that despite the first-degree murder charge, the Shunick family believes that Mickey is still alive. Bearb said that after the initial shock, a somber mood overtook the volunteers.
"There was a relief that they'd gotten one part of the journey done, and they want to bring her home. Her mother is definitely positive that she is alive, and I think [the rest of her family] are too -- we all are. We're going to pick up and keep on going," she said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Brandon Scott Lavergne was arrested at his home in Church Point, La., about six miles from where Mickey Shunick was last seen riding her bike. Church Point actually is approximately 30 miles from where she was last seen.