Former Kent woman charged in 1984 murder

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

A former Kent woman accused of a 1984 murder is back in the Baton Rouge, La. Police Department's custody after new evidence has emerged in the 28-year-old cold case.

Leila Mulla, 47, of Astoria, N.Y., and Ronald Dunnagan, 64, of Bossier City, La., were arrested Dec. 3 by the New York Police, Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office and the Queens, N.Y. District Attorney's Office and charged with criminal conspiracy, simple robbery and first-degree murder for the Nov. 29, 1984 slaying and robbing of Gary Kergan, a Crowley, La. businessman.

Mulla is a 1983 graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent.

Mulla and Dunnagan are being held in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

Kergan, who co-owned multiple Sonic restaurants with his brother Ted, was last seen at about 2 a.m. Nov. 29, 1984, with 19-year-old Mulla. The were seen leaving The Hot Spot, a Baton Rouge night club where Mulla worked as an exotic dancer under the stage name "Erika," according to 1984 reports.

According to a 1984 affidavit filed by Baton Rouge police, an inspection of Mulla and Dunnagan's apartment uncovered a scene of a violent struggle, which included blood stains on the floors, walls and ceilings of the bedroom and bathroom.

Kergan's body was never found, but his abandoned 1984 Cadillac El Dorado was recovered in New Orleans with blood stains in the trunk. Police believe Mulla and Dunnagan abandoned the car while fleeing to Las Vegas.

A search of the couple's Las Vegas apartment turned up a diary with entries that allegedly stated Mulla had plans to "get Sonic Gary," apparently referencing Kergan.

Dunnagan and Mulla were arrested in Las Vegas in December 1984, but the district attorney at the time declined to prosecute because of a lack of evidence, mainly Kergan's body, and both were released, Baton Rouge Police Lt. Don Kelly said in a Dec. 3 statement.

"As part of our agency's cold case review, blood from the trunk was recently re-tested at the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab and DNA analysis showed that it did in fact belong to the victim," Kelly said.

Ted Kergan, the victim's brother, said in a statement that he hopes the family can move forward and be given closure with the killers being brought to justice.

"My family is tremendously relieved that Leila Mulla has been extradited to finally face justice in the brutal 1984 death of my brother, Gary Kergan," he said. "My family is confident that as the facts of the case continue to unfold, it will become clear that Leila Mulla and Ronald Dunnagan planned all along to lure Gary into a trap and take his life."

Reports from Mulla's arrest in 1984 show that she maintained an "A" grade point average, was a member of the National Honor Society, American Field Service, master choir and the girls' track and cross-country teams during her time at Roosevelt.

Classmates and administrators at the time described Mulla as "a wonderful girl" and "a great person," and were in disbelief at the news of the alleged killing.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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