Investigators searching for missing Louisiana college student Mickey Shunick are examining her bicycle, which was found Sunday. Authorities said the bike appeared to have rear tire damage when it was found by a fisherman about 27 miles from where she was last seen 11 days ago.
At a news conference, detectives said they hope forensic experts can find evidence on the frame, handlebars or grip, reported Fox News.
Cpl. Paul Mouton of the Lafayette, La., police said the damaged bike was found in water under the Whiskey Bay Bridge, reported NBC.
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, he said, reported ABC.
Local fishermen found the bike and quickly alerted authorities.
ABC News consultant and former FBI special agent Brad Garrett said the fact that the bike was discovered near a highway could suggest that Shunick, a 22-year-old student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, was hit by a vehicle.
If her bike was hit by a vehicle ... you may be able to tell from the damage whether it was intentional or not, he said. [There] could be a wealth of information potentially gathered in addition to the location of the bike.
Police have not determined if the bike was hit by a vehicle or damaged during transport from another location. Mouton said he hopes the forensic team can uncover new evidence.
They're going to examine it and give us best scenario they can from information of that particular evidence, Mouton said, reported NBC.
Upon hearing Shunick's bike was discovered, her family expressed hope that the police can make a break in the case.
That's just giving us more hope that we'll find her soon, said Charlene Shunick, Mickey's sister, reported NBC.
We didn't get the bad feeling in the pit of our stomachs like, 'Oh, my God, this is terrible,' she said. It was more like, 'Oh, my God, finally we found something of Mickey's.' And we realized that someone definitely took her and this was planned out ... whoever has her is thinking about these things, said Charlene in another interview with ABC.
Shunick disappeared on May 19 in Lafayette. She was biking home from a friend's house around 2 a.m. She is described as 5 feet, 1 inch tall and 115 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes.
Friends, family and volunteers began have been tirelessly searching for her since she vanished without a trace. The FBI, U.S. Marshals and local police agencies are all involved in the hunt, reported ABC.
Police in Lafayette also spoke with officials in Bloomington, Ind., after noticing striking similarities in the case of missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer. Spierer, 20, vanished last year. Both cases involve petite, blonde, female university students. But officials concluded that the cases are not connected.
We don't feel those two cases are connected, Mouton said. They also do not believe Shunick's case is connected to any other, reported MSNBC.
Police are also searching for the drivers of three cars that were seen in the area around the time of Shunick's presumed disappearance: a white pickup truck, a four-door Chevy and an older model sedan.
The vehicles we're looking for are just vehicles of interest, not necessarily suspects, he said, reported ABC. We know those vehicles were in the area and in the immediate area.
They have been unable to contact any of the drivers, but Mouton said they are working on some things as of now.