Crowley businessman Gary Kergan frequented a north Baton Rouge strip club where Leila Mulla danced and had left the club with her before, but the club’s former owner testified Wednesday he never saw Kergan or Mulla again after the two exited the business in the early morning hours of Nov. 29, 1984.
Gary Magee, who owned the Night Spot Lounge on Plank Road, also said he never again saw Ronald Dalton Dunnagan, Mulla’s boyfriend who had introduced Mulla to him about a month earlier and asked Magee if he needed another dancer.
Magee, testifying as a prosecution witness at Dunnagan’s second-degree murder trial in the death of the 34-year-old Kergan, said he hired Mulla, and it was Dunnagan who would typically bring her to work and pick her up when her shift ended. Mulla performed at the club as “Erika.”
Magee said Mulla called him on Nov. 30, 1984, and said she would not be able to make it to work.
Retired Baton Rouge Police Capt. R.E. Thompson testified Dunnagan and Mulla also abruptly moved out of the Byron Street apartment they were renting on Nov. 30, 1984. They were arrested in early December 1984 in Las Vegas, where Mulla had applied for an escort service license.
That was the first of Dunnagan’s three arrests in the case.
Kergan’s Cadillac El Dorado was found abandoned in Jefferson Parish on Dec. 3, 1984. Police found a substantial amount of blood in the trunk of the car — blood that DNA testing in 2012 confirmed belonged to Kergan.
Kergan’s body has never been found. The courts declared him legally dead in 1986.
Mulla, 50, who was a registered nurse in New York at the time of her December 2012 arrest, pleaded guilty last year to manslaughter in return for a 30-year prison sentence. She is expected to testify against Dunnagan on Thursday.
Dunnagan, 66, of Bossier City, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.
In her opening statement to the jury earlier Wednesday, prosecutor Dana Cummings said Kergan — who owned a chain of Sonic Drive-In restaurants in south Louisiana with his brother Ted — was targeted by Mulla, a 19-year-old stripper and prostitute at the time, and Dunnagan, her then-36-year-old boyfriend and pimp.
Ted Kergan sat with his wife, Ann, in the front row of state District Judge Mike Erwin’s courtroom, along with Gary Kergan’s son, Wade.
Cummings said Mulla brought Gary Kergan back to the Byron Street apartment, where Dunnagan was hiding in a closet, and then Kergan was poisoned, robbed and dismembered before being put in the trunk of his own car in garbage bags.
Dunnagan shook his head from side to side during portions of Cummings’ opening statement and during some of Wednesday’s testimony.
Dunnagan’s court-appointed attorney, Susan Hebert, told jurors in her opening statement that prosecutors made a deal with the devil in Mulla, and she warned the jury about Mulla’s “self-serving testimony.”
At the time of Dunnagan’s December 1984 arrest, police described him as a drifter.
Magee testified that he once saw Dunnagan dressed as a clown and making balloon animals on the streets of New Orleans.
Thompson said Mulla’s statements to police have changed over time, initially telling detectives that Dunnagan killed Kergan unintentionally after she and Kergan had a dispute over the type of sex Kergan wanted. She later told police she gave Kergan wine that Dunnagan poisoned, and that Dunnagan finished Kergan off and dismembered his body.
Dunnagan, according to Thompson, referred to Kergan as “the Sonic man” who Mulla took to their apartment on Nov. 29, 1984, for sex. When a dispute occurred between Mulla and Kergan, Dunnagan told Thompson he escorted Kergan out of the apartment, and Kergan drove off by himself about 3:15 a.m.
“He didn’t admit to any violence with Gary,” the retired detective testified.
Toward the end of his police interview, Thompson said, Dunnagan stated: “How do you know he didn’t just leave town or drive off? You don’t have a body.”
The Kergan case dates back so far that current East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III worked on the case as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office.