Ted Kergan expressed profound relief Thursday after a judge set a July 13 trial date for the Bossier City man accused in the 1984 slaying of his brother and business partner, Gary Kergan, who was last seen alive at a north Baton Rouge apartment shared by his accused killers.
Ronald Dalton Dunnagan, 66, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 34-year-old Gary Kergan, whose body has never been found. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged.
“Oh, I’m relieved. I really am. To see Dunnagan have a trial date is a real weight off my shoulders,” Ted Kergan said outside state District Judge Mike Erwin’s courtroom after the judge set the case for trial.
“We’re not there yet. We have to let the justice system work the way it’s designed to work,” he added. “But I do see light at the end of the tunnel.”
Gary Kergan’s abandoned car, with a significant amount of blood in the trunk, was discovered in Metairie several days after his November 1984 disappearance. He was declared legally dead by the courts in 1986. DNA testing in 2012 revealed the blood belonged to Gary Kergan.
Kergan was last seen alive Nov. 29, 1984, at a Byron Street apartment shared by Dunnagan and Leila Mulla, an exotic dancer at the time.
Mulla, 48, of Astoria, New York, pleaded guilty earlier this year to manslaughter in Kergan’s slaying and implicated Dunnagan in the crime. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison and promised to cooperate with authorities.
Mulla admitted luring Kergan to the apartment and serving him wine allegedly poisoned by Dunnagan. Prosecutor Dana Cummings has said in court that Dunnagan and Mulla plotted to rob and kill Kergan.
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, Cummings stated. Dunnagan dragged a poisoned Kergan into another room “to complete the murder,” the prosecutor has said.
Dunnagan placed the body in the trunk of Kergan’s car to dispose of it, Cummings added.
The Kergan brothers owned a chain of Sonic Drive-In restaurants in south Louisiana.
Dunnagan and Mulla were first arrested in Las Vegas in December 1984 and accused of plotting to rob Gary Kergan, but they 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.
Dunnagan and Mulla were arrested again in December 2012 after DNA testing, which was not available at the time of the crime, confirmed the blood found in the trunk of Kergan’s car was his.
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.
Dunnagan was indicted Sept. 4 and arrested for the third time the day after.
News accounts at the time of the 1984 arrests described Dunnagan as a drifter.