Digging for evidence
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As Ted Kergan looked for answers, he turned to Texas EquuSearch, meeting and befriending its founder, Tim Miller. Tim would become instrumental in both the search for evidence and in befriending and questioning Ronald Dunnagan, one of the suspects. Dunnagan was 36 years old and had worked as a casino barker and costumed clown before moving to Baton Rouge in November, 1984. Besides a couple of stints in Las Vegas, Dunnagan lived in North Louisiana until his re-arrest in 2012. For a time, Dunnagan was let go. It was during this period that Tim Miller got to know Dunnagan, even coaxing some critical facts from him.

While in Louisiana, Tim also headed up a Texas EquuSearch dig for evidence adjacent to the Mississippi River. Photos from that dig show Ted Kergan, pictured at left, top photo, and at right, in photo above.

How far would you go?

Chris Blackwood
One half of $100
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Ted Kergan found someone who had seen his brother, Gary Kergan, the night he went missing, November 28, 1984. But, she wasn’t saying much. She couldn’t. Her livelihood depended on keeping her business open and if she gave out too much information, it might come back to haunt her. Ted wanted to give her some incentive to open up to him. He plucked a $100 bill from his pocket, tore it in half and gave the witness one half. He put the other half back in his wallet.

Ted encouraged the witness to call him if she remembered anything else about the night Gary Kergan went missing. Then, he would give her the other half of the $100 bill. One hundred dollars was a lot of money in 1984. Ted didn’t hear from her.

But, you’ll never believe what she did with her half of the $100 bill.

 

How far would you go?

Chris Blackwood
Blending in Astoria, Queens, NY
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Leila Mulla left Louisiana in 1985, never to return, she thought.

 

When fate intervened in 2012, Leila was working as a nurse in a hospital emergency room in Astoria, Queens, NY. And, she was living in this bland, five-story apartment building, where her goal was to just blend in. Imagine then, her neighbors’ surprise when Baton Rouge detectives met Leila here to re-arrest her in December, 2012. They had been well prepared by FBI profilers to handle and question the now 47-year-old, who also regularly blogged as a wedding planner and happiness specialist.

What she told them, both at her apartment and at the local county district attorney’s office, would be instrumental in the eventual resolution of the cold case of Sonic Gary.

Throughout the whole ordeal, Ted Kergan, the victim’s brother, was never far behind. He wasn’t about to let Leila Mulla out of his sight.

 

How far would you go?

Chris Blackwood
Santa Claus doppelgänger
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When he was re-arrested in December, 2012, Ronald Dunnagan was 64 years old. Some of his fellow inmates at parish prison called him Santa Claus. But, was he really that docile grandfather figure? Or, was he armed and dangerous when detectives went to North Louisiana arrest him? Ted Kergan, along with law enforcement and those in the district attorney’s office, wanted to know more about this man, who for 28 years, had been living with family, in weekly hotel rentals, sometimes even in shelters. But, he wasn’t saying much. What they discovered and how they discovered it, was simply amazing.

 

How far would you go?

 
Chris Blackwood
Crazy coincidence!

The story surrounding My Brother’s Keeper is steeped in coincidences and titillating twists and fates. Here’s one:

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Memry Tucker is the daughter of Larry Tucker, a longtime  business associate of Ted and Gary Kergan, brothers who lived in the Acadiana area and owned Sonic franchises. She grew up hearing the tale about Gary Kergan and how he went missing in November, 1984. As a young girl, Memry remembers sitting on the stairs in the Tucker home, watching her father pace as he talked about the case on the kitchen landline phone nightly for a while. This image had a lasting effect on her.     

That little girl, who loved her Nancy Drew books, decided on a career in law enforcement, wanting to solve murders - particularly Gary Kergan’s. She worked as an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff deputy and then as a victim’s advocate agent in the district attorney’s office  Imagine her surprise when, out of the blue, she received a call in 2012 from a fellow officer telling her that Baton Rouge Police’s new Cold Case Division was considering re-opening Gary Kergan’s or as they called it, “Sonic Gary’s” case. She was dumbfounded. Of course, she became intricately involved in the case as well.     

How far would you go?

 
Chris Blackwood
Charge a Learjet
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     What if you had to travel cross country for a shot at justice and you only had a few hours to get there?

     Oh yeah, and it’s 1984. No cell phones, no internet, just flipping through the Yellow Pages next to a desk phone. And, a faint memory about a friend of a friend, not even an acquaintance who, in an emergency, was able to rent a Learjet and charge it to his credit card.

     That’s right: rent a Learjet and charge it.

     Ted Kergan was chasing a man and a woman, the last people to see his brother before he went missing. And, they were being held by far-flung authorities for a short period. Baton Rouge detectives needed to get there to question the couple but had no idea how to do it before these persons of interest had to be released. Ted Kergan took matters, and the phone book, into his own hands. At the time, Ted and his missing brother, Gary Kergan, were fledgling businessmen with limited collateral.

     When he explained his dire situation to the Learjet representative via telephone, that representative allowed Ted to charge a Learjet on his American Express card. Imagine everyone’s surprised. Ted was off to a convenience store to buy a toothbrush and met the two Baton Rouge detectives assigned to the case at the airport. Within hours, they were headed to Las Vegas.

How far would you go?

 

Chris Blackwood
For the love of family
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Siblings Gary, Cheryl and Ted with their mother, Grace Harriet Patricia Frances McGraw Kergan. My siblings: Beverly, Linda and me, front row; Vince, Susan, Angela and Mike, back row

          Ted and Gary Kergan lost their father the day after Ted was born. That loss was the glue that bound the brothers together. Gary, as the older brother, assumed the role of Ted’s “protector.” Both helped their mom, Grace Harriet Patricia Frances McGraw Kergan, who supported their household as a seamstress. When Gary went missing, Ted stepped into an overwhelming new existence. He was now at the helm of their family and their business, while trying to find out what really happened to Gary. That family included Gary’s wife, Susie, and their 11-year-old son, Wade.

         I lost my baby sister, Angela, two weeks after she gave birth to her second daughter. She suffered a fatal stroke. Angela also left behind a 2-year-old. After her funeral, my mother and father stepped into a new overwhelming existence. Then in their seventies, they took the 2-week-old baby home with them. Today, that baby is almost 14 and still lives with my mother part-time and with one of my sisters and her husband. My 16-year-old niece is being reared by another sister and her husband. Everyone in my large family rallied with one goal: that our nieces know there is plenty of love all around them. We feel Angela’s presence through these two beautiful girls.

         So many times, during emergencies, family members step up and do what they have to do, no matter what the personal and financial costs.

How far would you go?

Chris Blackwood
How far would you go?

Blood stains in the trunk of Gary Kergan's Cadillac

This is it - blood evidence collected from the trunk of a Cadillac Eldorado in 1984 when DNA testing was not yet used at the Baton Rouge Police Department.

This and the searing image of the body of 6-foot-tall Gary Kergan stuffed into a trunk like this. That’s all Ted Kergan had when he began his parallel-to-police investigation. My Brother’s Keeper: A 30-Year Quest to Bring Two Killers to Justice chronicles Ted Kergan’s roller-coaster journey from Ohio to New York, Kentucky, back to Louisiana and onto the streets of New Orlean’s French Quarter. He gutted out the grueling distance, sparing no time and certainly no expense.

How far would you go?  Would you spend that much time and more than $1 million for someone in your family? Yeah, you might want to, but…

I want to explore that concept of strength, perseverance and force of will that can be found deep inside all of us but is accessible to just a few. I’m intrigued by stories of incredible people who continue to push forward, while the norm is to cave.

How far would you go?

Chris Blackwood