Planning to kill Crowley businessman began weeks before his 1984 death, former stripper testifies Thursday _lowres

Leila Mulla

Three decades after Gary Kergan disappeared, a 65-year-old Bossier City man was indicted Thursday on a second-degree murder charge in the 1984 slaying of the Crowley businessman last seen alive in Baton Rouge.

Ronald Dalton Dunnagan, who has been arrested twice and released twice in the case, will be arrested a third time to face trial in Baton Rouge in the killing of Kergan, 34.

Dunnagan’s indictment came several months after a former exotic dancer, Leila Mulla, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Kergan’s death and implicated Dunnagan in the crime. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison and promised to cooperate with authorities.

Kergan and his brother, Ted, owned a chain of Sonic Drive-In restaurants in south Louisiana.

Ted Kergan was in state District Judge Don Johnson’s courtroom Thursday afternoon when an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury returned its indictment of Dunnagan.

“My family is relieved that after 30 years, justice is finally being served for Gary, who was lured into a trap, poisoned and savagely beaten to death,” Ted Kergan said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to bringing justice to those responsible for this horrific act of violence that took my brother away from us.

“We’ve never given up on Gary, and neither did the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office nor the Baton Rouge Police Department. With their help, we are finally giving Gary the justice his memory deserves,” he added.

Baton Rouge police, State Police, FBI and the District Attorney’s Office have all participated in the investigation into Gary Kergan’s death, District Attorney Hillar Moore III said.

Kergan’s body has never been found, but a significant amount of blood was found in the trunk of his Cadillac El Dorado when the abandoned car was located in Metairie several days after his Nov. 29, 1984, disappearance. In 2012, DNA testing revealed the blood belonged to Kergan.

“We accept our burden and look forward to presenting our case in court,” Moore said. “We hope to give the Kergan family final closure to this long-term nightmare.”

Dunnagan does not yet have a lawyer in this case.

Mulla, 48, of Astoria, New York, admitted in a Baton Rouge courtroom in May that she lured Kergan to her north Baton Rouge apartment and fed him wine poisoned by Dunnagan.

Prosecutor Dana Cummings has said Mulla and Dunnagan conspired to rob and kill Kergan.

Kergan was last seen alive Nov. 29, 1984, at a Byron Street apartment shared by Mulla and Dunnagan, police have said.

Cummings has said Mulla met Kergan at the Night Spot Lounge on Plank Road, where she worked as a dancer. Mulla left the lounge with Kergan and lured him back to the apartment, where Dunnagan was hiding, the prosecutor has said.

“Dunnagan poisoned the victim’s wine, and Mulla gave it to him,” Cummings told state District Judge Mike Erwin on May 15 when Mulla entered her guilty plea. “Dunnagan dragged him into another room to complete the murder.”

Cummings also said Dunnagan placed the body in the trunk of Kergan’s car to dispose of it.

Police have said Kergan had about $2,000 cash in his possession and jewelry valued at more than $8,000 on the night he disappeared.

Mulla authored a hand-written diary that indicates the Kergan robbery was a planned event between her and Dunnagan, an affidavit of probable cause states.

Court records indicate Dunnagan was Mulla’s boyfriend, but Mulla’s attorney, Frank Holthaus, said in May that Mulla was a teen runaway and a victim of human trafficking at the hands of Dunnagan, who prostituted Mulla and other girls for money.

Mulla and Dunnagan were first arrested in Las Vegas in December 1984 and accused of plotting to rob Kergan but were released in March 1985 after then-East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Bryan Bush declined to prosecute the pair because of a lack of evidence.

Mulla and Dunnagan were arrested again in December 2012 after DNA testing of the blood found in the trunk of Kergan’s car confirmed it belonged to him. That testing was not available at the time of the crime. Mulla also admitted her involvement in the crime in statements she gave to Louisiana authorities in December 2012 in New York, according to court records.

An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted Mulla in April 2013 on a first-degree murder charge but took no action against Dunnagan, who was then released from jail. Mulla was not cooperating with the state at that time.

Mulla worked as a nurse in New York prior to her second arrest, Holthaus has said. News accounts at the time of the 1984 arrests described Dunnagan as a drifter.

Kergan was declared legally dead by the courts in 1986.