Clause opted for a change in protocol and a smaller courtroom over the Lafayette Parish Courthouse. The correctional center holds about 12 visitors that also had a glass partition that separated onlookers from those involved in the arraignment–Lavergne, Clause and the attorneys. The small room also had a speaker system that allowed onlookers to hear the proceedings, however.
The courtroom chosen is attached to the jail where Lavergne is being held.
The decision was made, in part, due to security issues according to Clause.
“It made sense because of security problems and all,” he said. “It’s the most secure courtroom that we have.”
It also limited the number of outside forces allowed into the courtroom, like the media as well as other groups.
The proceeding was important, as Lavergne had to be present for the arraignment, but was also brief.
As was expected by many, including District Attorney Mike Harson, Lavergned entered a plea of not guilty and the judge placed an Oct. 9 deadline for motions to be filed.
Clause said that a status hearing would be set after Oct. 9, then the trial date.
Lavergne has been incarcerated since July 5 when he was arrested for an unrelated warrant before being charged and arrested for the aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder of Michaela “Mickey” Shunick.
Two weeks later, on July 18, a Lafayette grand jury heard evidence and indicted Lavergne on the first-degree murder of Shunick as well as, surprisingly, the first-degree murder of Lisa Pate.
Shunick was last seen on May 19 where surveillance video places her riding her bicycle just before 2 a.m. past City Hall on St. Landry St. in Lafayette. The video also shows a white pickup truck, later identified as belonging to Lavergne, drove past City Hall shortly after Shunick.
Police also say they can place Lavergne at Whiskey Bay, off Interstate 10, where Shunick’s damaged bike was recovered May 26, a week after he disappearance.
The search for Shunick continues meanwhile and an organizer for the “Find Mickey Now” group says group members will be at every hearing as they continue to look.
Pate’s remains, on the other hand, were found 13 years ago in September 1999 in Acadia Parish.
Pate was a mother of three and went missing in the early summer of 1999.
An Acadia Parish grand jury failed in 2008 to indict Lavergne for Pate’s murder. At the time of the 2008 grand jury trial, Lavergne was imprisoned, serving what would end up being eight years of a 10-year sentence for aggravated oral sexual battery, an incident that occurred a few months before Pate’s disappearance.