Over the years, Paul Ingels, the tough nosed private eye became convinced of Bruce Lisker's innocence. But he knew he could never convince a judge without the critical crime scene photos and other evidence locked away inside the Los Angeles Police Department.
"I would wake up at three in the morning trying to figure out how to get my hands on the evidence to prove that Bruce Lisker was innocent," Ingels explains.
On one of those sleepless nights, Ingels came up with a plan; a slightly crazy plan. Ingels had Bruce file a complaint against Det. Andrew Monsue, accusing him of falsifying evidence.
"What's the chance that the LAPD is going to take a complaint from a convict seriously?" Moriarty asks.
Ingels replies, "It was a shot in the dark, but you gotta take it. Because it was our only chance to get to those photographs. And you never know whose desk that puppy's gonna land on."
The complaint landed with Sgt. Jim Gavin. A 17-year veteran of the force, Sgt. Gavin prized three things above all else: his wife, Carol - a sergeant and third-generation police officer, their four boys and the LAPD.
"I lived and breathed the LAPD," Gavin says. "I believed in everything they did."
As an internal affairs investigator, Gavin looked into allegations of misconduct against police officers, which is exactly what he did when he got Bruce Lisker's complaint against Det. Monsue.
When asked what made the case unusual, Gavin says, "He had supporting documents. It wasn't just a piece of paper that said, 'Hey, I didn't do it.'"
One document in particular caught Gavin's eye: a letter Det. Monsue wrote to the parole board 15 years after the murder. In it he claims to have found proof that Bruce Lisker stole the money from his mother's purse. The new owners of the home, he wrote, told him they found the money hidden in the attic.
There was just one problem. The new homeowner, Mort Borenstein, has no memory of speaking to Det. Monsue or of finding the money in the attic.
"I don't like calling a police officer a liar, but in this situation, it's hard to avoid that conclusion," Borenstein tells Moriarty.
Sgt. Gavin checked to see if Monsue had booked the $150 into evidence, the normal procedure. He hadn't.
"When you realized he didn't book the money, what's the concern at that point?" Moriarty asks Gavin.
"That he may have submitted a false report to the parole board," he replies. "It's very serious… If he lied here, is there a possibility that he may have lied in other places."
Gavin turned his attention to the footprints, some of the most condemning evidence at trial.
"In the closing arguments… the deputy D.A. said, 'Look at all the footprints in the house. They're the same as Bruce Lisker's. If somebody else committed this murder, where's their footprints? Where's their bloody footprints?'"
But Gavin discovered those footprints had never been analyzed. So he sent them to the LAPD's own analyst. He then called Paul Ingels with the results.
"He says, in a nutshell, the bloody shoeprint that they used to convict Bruce excludes him… it's not his shoeprint," Ingels tells Moriarty.
"I'm getting goose bumps right now," Ingels says of his reaction to the results. "I didn't know whether to cry or yell…but now we're cooking."
"Here's concrete confirmation that what I've been saying all along is the truth. And it came out of the mouth of a LAPD analyst. It's huge," adds Bruce.
When asked what he realized at that moment, Sgt. Jim Gavin says, "That maybe we actually convicted the wrong person. That maybe what Bruce Lisker was saying was the truth."
Paul Ingels believes the real killer was under Det. Monsue's nose the whole time.
"Absolutely, Mike Ryan. John Michael Ryan is the murderer of Dorka Lisker," he says.
Ingels believes Mike Ryan, Bruce's violent young friend, should have been the prime suspect from the start.
"Mike Ryan had talked to Dorka Lisker and asked for money and odd jobs just the day before the murder," Ingels explains. "Mike Ryan had a history of violence… a fascination with knives."
Prior to the murder, Ryan was so broke he was sleeping in carports. Then, says Ingels, "The day of the murder he all of a sudden had enough money to rent a hotel room."
Mike Ryan then gave himself a phony alibi by lying about the time he checked in, says Ingels. And, as heard in an audio recording between the detective and Ryan, Monsue knew it:
Det. Andrew Monsue: See, the other problem that you've got, coming here, you says you checked into the motel on Thursday morning around 11:00. So that's [BS]. I went to the hotel. You checked in, it was 3:00 in the afternoon.
Mike Ryan: Yeah, it was somewhere around 3:00. I don't remember.
Monsue then drops it and lets Ryan off the hook.
Det. Monsue: I don't think you would have helped kill his mom. I think Bruce killed his mom. I've never thought you killed his mom.
Detective Monsue never questioned Mike Ryan again. Paul Ingels and Jim Gavin never got the chance, because Ryan committed suicide before either could talk to him.
Ingels did get a chance to speak with Ryan's father.
"He was thoroughly and totally convinced that his son had committed the murder," Ingels explains. "And he said, 'You know, I was happy when my son committed suicide, because the world is a safer place with him gone.'"
As the private eye and the LAPD sergeant continued tearing down the state's case, Sgt. Gavin discovered a piece of evidence that, unbelievably, no one had ever noticed before.
"I was looking at the autopsy photos. And right above Dorka Lisker's ear was what I saw and I believed was a footprint - like a stomping, like somebody had placed their foot on her head," he explains.
Both Gavin and Ingels knew what they had stumbled upon 20 years after the murder.
"Only the killer would stomp on the back of her head," Ingels says. "So that shoe print could be, like, awesome for Bruce Lisker or it could be really horrible."
But before they could test that footprint - what could be the most definitive piece of evidence in the case - Gavin's investigation took a stunning turn.