http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/DG/20120603/NEWS01/206030341/Mickey-Shunick-search-You-just-got-hope-?odyssey=nav%7CheadMickey Shunick search: 'You just got to have hope'
12:54 AM, Jun. 3, 2012
Written by Megan Wyatt
Side by side, Michaela "Mickey" Shunick and her sister Charlene "Charlie" Shunick are doppelgangers. Both share blue eyes, a fair complexion and that curly, bright blonde hair.
The sisters' personalities differ greatly, however. Friends and family describe Mickey, 22, as reserved and Charlie, 24, as outgoing.
Publicly, the Shunick family has remained hopeful amid Mickey's mysterious May 19 disappearance, with Charlie actively involved in volunteer search efforts. Even two weeks after her sister vanished — a case that has confounded police and drawn widespread interest locally and nationally — Charlie feels upbeat and positive about her sister's whereabouts.
"Usually, I get a good cry in the morning, the afternoon and in the evening," the older Shunick sister said. "But I feel equally as positive when I'm alone as when I'm with other people. I mean other people just make it so that I'm thinking about other things and doing things rather than just sitting at home going, 'Mickey, where are you? Where in the hell is Mickey?' So it's been OK."Behind closed doors
Away from the masses, officials and media, the Shunick family speculates about Mickey's whereabouts much like the rest of Acadiana, Charlie said.
"We're doing what the masses are doing, speculating, too," Charlie said. "Trying to figure out well, if this is the case with this kind of stuff and this is going on over here, how could this be related? How could this not be related?"
Although the missing Lafayette woman's parents have remained visible through the search, their son, Thomas "Zack" Shunick, has shied away from the public eye.
"I think he's spoken to one person about this," said Charlie. "He's doing OK. He's just a really, really private person, and he's very shy. He's been pretty lighthearted and trying to make fun of me and the family and making all these jokes, so he's kind of been the backbone of making the family smile and being goofy and being a little jerk because he's a little brother."
According to Charlie, her mother Nancy Rowe and father Tom Shunick look a "little bit better and more hopeful" each time she sees them, noting that they can finally eat, sleep and work.
When the four can get some alone time, they often find themselves brainstorming, searching for some overlooked clue as to what happened to Mickey.
"From the very beginning, I felt that somebody probably took her, like I just felt that inside of me," Charlie said. "So we've just been speculating: Could it be someone we know? Could it be someone I know and dated since we look so similar? Could it be someone from school? Could it be some random person who was driving or speeding? — just trying to figure out things like that and think if there's anyone we know that's been weird.
"We haven't come up with anything."Reacting to clues
The first several days of scouring the city for clues of Mickey's disappearance yielded no solid leads, so when police released surveillance footage of Mickey riding her bike alongside the Lafayette Consolidated Government building, the Shunick family felt relieved.
"It was good to see her on her bike," Charlie said. "It was good to see that she got away from Brettly's house, because that cleared him, because I spent a lot of energy and time defending him because we stood behind him from the beginning."
According to Charlie, seeing Mickey on her bicycle confirmed the family's inclination that Mickey had been abducted.
Two days later on May 27, fishermen at Whiskey Bay, about 30 miles from Lafayette, found a black and gold bicycle and reported it to officials. Charlie identified the bicycle as Mickey's, which left her feeling the least hopeful she had since her sister's disappearance.
"I was really upset about it for a while," Charlie said. "But that was also a positive thing, you know? My family took that better than I did. We found her bike, and we didn't find her. So that's awesome. It's just been kind of one of those emotional roller coasters."
Later that day at the concert benefit at Parc International, Mickey's mother had a message to the person who had her daughter in his or her possession: Drop Mickey off in a public place.
"We really think that somebody had an accident," Rowe said. "An accident, and maybe hit her bike. What they need to do is go to some truck stop, a public place. Just drop her. By the time that they take an hour to figure out who she is, they can be in another state. Just drop her. Drop her and run. Don't hurt her. A mistake is a mistake."
Mickey's father could not prevent questions — What's happening to her? Has she been fed? Has she got any water? — from cycling through his mind.
"We just hope she's still alive, and that's about all I can say," Tom Shunick said.Sisterly love
Charlie and Mickey did not become close until the two were teenagers, according to Charlie.
"Growing up, I wasn't the nicest big sister in the world," she said. "I was just a butthead."
Charlie alternated between laughing and animatedly telling a childhood story of the time Charlie punched her younger sister in the face.
"We had been fighting a lot, and my brother was being really aggravating or something," Charlie said. "(Mickey) just said something — we were out in the backyard — and I just punched her in the face. And she just immediately goes 'Mama!' and ran inside. I've never hit anybody after that because I got into trouble."
Mickey's biggest quirk, according to family and friends, is her hatred of feet. With a sheepish expression, Charlie admitted that she caused her sister's fear of feet.
"That's my fault. It's disgusting," Charlie said with a hearty laugh. "For softball, you know you have to wear cleats all the time, so I got athlete's foot really bad. And I don't remember doing this, but apparently I peeled it off and threw it on her. And ever since then, she ... just hates them. And I always bothered her after. I'd be like 'Hey, look at my feet,' and put them all over her."Anyone with any information about the case, please contact the Lafayette Police Department or Crime Stoppers at 337-232-TIPS.
Charlie's message to Mickey through the search efforts is a simple one: to be smart.
"Be smart and think smart and be safe and we're coming to get you," said Charlie. "Hope it's not too fun over there — I'm sure it's not — because we're going to come find you and take you away from there, so just be smart, little sister."
And the very first thing Charlie said she will tell her sister in person is an apology.
"Sorry I've been wearing all of your clothes," Charlie said, smiling.Community support
Inside of the volunteer headquarters at Blackham Coliseum on the UL campus, public and private donations of more than just food, water and time uplift the ones who love Mickey.
Dozens of colorful butterflies decorated by children at The Little Paintbrush line the walls of the coliseum. A stuffed puppy, donated by a 4-year-old boy named Jack, sat on Charlie's shoulder. A large banner with the message — "Lafayette is missing a little sister. Don't give up!" — caused Charlie to tear up.
"All these little girls are like, 'You're my idol. I hope I can do this for my sister someday in some way,'" Charlie said.
The community support and volunteer efforts have inspired and overwhelmed the family with emotion over the past two weeks, Charlie said. It can be hard for her to place blame on anybody from the area for her sister's disappearance after the support the community has given her.
"I don't want to accuse people of anything because look at what Lafayette has been doing," Charlie said. "This probably isn't a Lafayette thing. I think if she was in Lafayette, someone would have said something by now because literally everyone is looking for her. But that's not to say she's not here."
Although she does not want to trust her intuition too much, Charlie feels "like something is going to happen soon."
And keeping positive is what has gotten her and her family this far.
"Why would we be negative until we have something to be negative about, really?" said Charlie. "None of us feel like she's dead, and most of us feel like she's doing OK. Everyone else has been so positive, and we've been positive. You just got to have hope."