Woman seeks to suppress confession in '84 BR slaying

The attorney for a New York woman accused in the 1984 killing of a Crowley businessman last seen alive at her Baton Rouge home said Wednesday that he’ll seek to suppress an alleged confession she gave in 2012 after her second arrest in the case.

Frank Holthaus, who represented Leila Mulla after she was first arrested in late 1984, contends authorities should not have questioned her in New York in late 2012 without him being there.

“She gave a two-hour statement that the prosecutor considers (was) against her own interest,” Holthaus said following a hearing Wednesday before state District Judge Mike Erwin in the first-degree murder case.

Mulla, 48, and Ronald Dalton Dunnagan, 65, of Bossier City, were both arrested in Las Vegas in December 1984 and accused of plotting to rob Gary 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.

Kergan’s body has never been found.

Mulla, of Astoria, N.Y., and Dunnagan were arrested again in December 2012 after a DNA test of blood found in Kergan’s car confirmed it belonged to Kergan. Mulla was booked with second-degree murder, simple robbery and criminal conspiracy; Dunnagan was booked on counts of first-degree murder, simple robbery and criminal conspiracy.

An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted Mulla on a first-degree murder charge in April but took no action against Dunnagan, who was released from jail. Mulla is being held without bond.

Kergan’s brother, Ted Kergan, attended Wednesday’s hearing and said afterward the Kergan family has never given up on Gary Kergan and neither has the justice system.

“It’s really satisfying to see this whole thing starting to move,” he said inside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse. “She’s still in jail. It was a brutal crime. Gary was lured into this. It was vicious. I can’t wait for justice to finally get served.”

Ted Kergan also was in the courtroom when Mulla pleaded not guilty in April.

Inside the courtroom Wednesday, Holthaus told Erwin he needs to know whether the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office intends to seek the death penalty, but Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings said only that she hasn’t filed a notice of intent to pursue such a punishment.

Holthaus and Cummings are scheduled to return to Erwin’s courtroom May 15 for a hearing on motions that Holthaus said he intends to file within the next two weeks.

Holthaus said he will be seeking to suppress not only Mulla’s alleged confessions but also the fruits of search and seizures conducted in Nevada, New York and Baton Rouge.

News accounts at the time of Mulla’s 1984 arrest described her as an exotic dancer. Holthaus said she later worked as a nurse in New York. Dunnagan was considered a drifter.

Gary Kergan, who along with his brother owned a chain of Sonic Drive-In restaurants in Louisiana, was last seen alive Nov. 29, 1984, at Mulla’s north Baton Rouge home, police have said.

Gary Kergan’s car was later found abandoned in Metairie. Authorities found a significant amount of blood in the trunk of the car but at the time could not determine definitively whether it was Kergan’s because the technology was lacking, police He was declared legally dead by the courts in 1986.