Ted Kergan had waited more than three decades to speak directly to the man responsible for killing his brother and business partner, Crowley businessman Gary Kergan, in Baton Rouge in 1984. When the moment finally came Wednesday at drifter Ronald Dunnagan’s sentencing, he did not hold back.
Kergan called the 66-year-old Dunnagan a depraved murderer, then delivered a forceful message to the Bossier City man — a former French Quarter clown — that his deceased older brother and best friend could not send.
“If he was here right now, what he would tell you is, ‘I got you, you son of a bitch,’ ” Kergan said sternly from the witness stand as he stood and glared across state District Judge Mike Erwin’s courtroom at a seated Dunnagan.
Kergan apologized to Erwin for his language, but the judge simply said he has heard much worse in his courtroom.
Erwin then ordered Dunnagan, who was found guilty last month of second-degree murder, to spend the rest of his life in prison.
“It’s an incredible relief,” Kergan said later, outside the courtroom. “This is just icing on the cake — life in prison without parole.”
“I feel fulfilled,” he added. “I did for my brother what he would have done for me.”
Dunnagan’s court-appointed attorney, Susan Hebert, said Dunnagan intends to appeal his conviction. She asked the judge to appoint the Louisiana Appellate Project to handle the appeal.
Dunnagan’s accomplice, former exotic dancer/prostitute-turned-nurse Leila Mulla, is serving a 30-year prison term for her role in Gary Kergan’s death. She pleaded guilty last year to manslaughter and testified against Dunnagan.
Kergan disappeared in November 1984, and his body has never been located.
Mulla, 50, of Astoria, New York, testified she lured Kergan from a Plank Road strip club in November 1984 to a north Baton Rouge apartment that she and Dunnagan shared. She said she gave Kergan wine that Dunnagan poisoned as part of their robbery scheme. Mulla said Dunnagan dismembered Kergan’s body and discarded it in garbage dumpsters.
Ted Kergan told Dunnagan that his mother spent the last 10 years of her life not knowing what happened to her first-born son.
“You tossed my brother’s remains like a piece of trash. Do you not believe in retribution?” he asked his brother’s killer.
Kergan said his brother, with whom he owned a chain of Sonic Drive-In restaurants in central and south Louisiana, left behind a legacy of 4,000 employees.
“What’s your legacy?” he asked Dunnagan in a mocking tone. “I bet you’re embarrassed to be here.”
Gary Kergan was declared legally dead by the courts in 1986. Blood discovered in the trunk of his abandoned car just days after his disappearance was confirmed by DNA testing in 2012 to be Gary Kergan’s blood.
Dunnagan was arrested three times in the case. The first came in December 1984 when he and Mulla were booked in Las Vegas and accused of plotting to rob Kergan.
They were set free the next spring after then-East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Bryan Bush declined to prosecute them. He cited a lack of evidence.
They were arrested again in December 2012 after the DNA testing confirmed the blood found in the trunk of Gary Kergan’s car belonged to Kergan. Mulla was indicted in 2013, but an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury took no action against Dunnagan at that time. He was released from jail. Mulla was not cooperating with authorities at the time.
But in May 2014, Mulla implicated Dunnagan in Kergan’s death at her guilty plea. Dunnagan’s third arrest came after his 2014 indictment.