Man imprisoned for 26 years; Did an LAPD cop lie?

48 Hours Mystery: The Whole Truth

"The cops said that I beat my mother, I stabbed my mother, I choked my mother. I didn't touch my mother," Bruce Lisker says [adamantly]. "I loved my mother and my mother loved me."

In 1983, 17-year-old Bruce Lisker's denials fell on deaf ears, says Los Angeles Times reporter Scott Glover.

"The police zeroed in on Lisker from day one," Glover says. "Detective Andrew Monsue just kept his sights locked on Lisker for the entire case."

Monsue, then a young detective making his name, was determined to put Lisker in prison, telling the judge at a hearing that the pattern of blood spatter on Bruce's T-shirt showed he'd been standing over his mother at the moment he bludgeoned her.

Bruce tells Moriarty the detective's statement "guaranteed that I would be tried for this crime."

Monsue continued building an airtight case - a case that even included a confession.

"Bruce Lisker told me he did it. He murdered his mother," says Robert Hughes.

In 1983, Hughes was another prisoner housed in the cell next to Bruce. He says Bruce gave him a blow-by-blow description of the gory murder.

"It was this Jekyll and Hyde thing goin," Hughes says. "It got kind of weird. It got vicious."

Faced with overwhelming evidence, Bob Lisker - always at his son's side - urged Bruce to take a deal. In exchange for getting a five-and-a-half year sentence in a juvenile facility, Bruce Lisker made an astonishing statement: he pleaded guilty.

"If you're an innocent man why would you plead guilty?" Erin Moriarty asks.

"Because of the reality of the matter," Bruce replies. "They were trying me for first-degree murder. First-degree murder carried 25 years to life… At some point, your family knows the truth and they say, 'Do whatever you have to to get home to us as soon as possible.'"

"Even admitting to killing your mother?"

"It wasn't an admission, it was a false statement. It was a lie."

But Bruce appeared so violent, so lacking in remorse to a team of psychologists, they advised against him going to a juvenile facility.

Their evaluation was a deal breaker; the teenager would be tried as an adult after all. Bruce Lisker was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea and enter a new plea of not guilty.

Phillip Rabichow, now retired, prosecuted the case. He says he was "absolutely positive" that Bruce Lisker killed his mother.

Rabichow believed Bruce's account of the murder was riddled with lies, and he put on his star witness to prove it.

"The prosecution's key witness was Det. Andrew Monsue," Scott Glover explains. "He testified that Lisker would not have been able to see his mother from the rear of the house on the day of the killing as he claimed he had."

According to the detective's testimony, the sun's reflection would have created a mirror effect and blocked Bruce's view. To prove it, the prosecution showed a picture of Det. Monsue's reflection in the window.

When asked how important that bit of evidence was, Glover replies, "It was the foundation of the prosecution's case. If he was lying about that, he was lying about everything."

Rabichow argued that Bruce had the opportunity - he was there - and he had a motive: money.
"I think he went over there to get money for drugs and that a confrontation ensued and got outta hand," he says.

One-hundred-and-fifty dollars was reported missing from Dorka Lisker's purse. That money was never found and would remain the one hole in the prosecution's case.

Asked what he thinks happened to the $150, Rabichow replies, "That it had been hidden somewhere."

"By whoever killed her?" Moriarty asks.

"By Bruce Lisker," he says.

Bruce insisted there was someone else in the house that day - an intruder who killed his mother. But prosecutors argue the key footprints, including a bloody one in the bathroom, appeared to match Bruce Lisker.

"There was no evidence of anyone else that could have killed Dorka Lisker," Rabichow says. "If you're trying to blame someone else, where's the killer's footprints?"

After a three-week trial, Bruce's fate was in the hands of the jurors. They deliberated for three days before reaching a verdict.

"I remember going in and just feeling physically ill. Just sick to my stomach. And the bailiff read "Guilty," says Bruce, pausing before saying, "That was it. My life's over."

His sentence: 16 years to life.

The years passed, the teenager became a man, and all of his appeals failed. But one thing remained constant. Bruce says the case "consumed me. I mean, it consumed all of my time. It was my every focus."

Throughout it all, the one person who continued to believe in him was his dad.

"I would call him everyday at 10:00 a.m.," says Bruce.

The calls would end when Bruce was 30 years old.

"I called and his secretary said, 'He'd had a heart attack and he didn't make it.' And that was the most difficult point… my dad was all I had. And then he was gone."

Bob Lisker left his son one last gift: $184,000. The money enabled Bruce to keep hope alive despite his diminishing legal options.

"Hope is an interesting thing. It's dangerous for a prisoner. If you have it too close, you'll suffer greatly. If you let it die, then you'll begin to die in prison," Bruce tells Moriarty. "And I was not gonna die in prison."

In 1999, 16 years after his mother's murder, Bruce Lisker took one more leap of faith and hired a man who would change his life: a bear of an ex-cop turned private investigator Paul Ingels.

Of his first reaction to the case, Ingels tells Moriarty, "If you're to believe what these officers are saying on the stand, he's guilty. He was guilty… guilty as the day is long."

Then, Ingels began taking a closer look at the evidence - including a shirt that Det. Monsue says was covered with blood.

"There is no blood. You can see there is no blood on it," Ingels says. "When it was tested, there was no blood on it at all, none. It was covered only in grease…"

As Ingels continued looking at the case, he says he came to a stunning realization about Det. Monsue.

"He's a liar. Monsue's a liar," Ingels tells Moriarty. "I now know beyond any shadow of a doubt Monsue's a liar."

Ingels says that told him that Bruce Lisker "may be innocent."

So began a 10-year investigation. Together, the unlikely duo - an ex-cop and a convicted killer - took on one of the most powerful police forces in the country: the mighty LAPD.

"I started learning more about the case and it was like this snowball that just keeps getting bigger and bigger, rolling faster and faster," says Ingels.

And along the way, they found an unlikely ally.

"I lived and breathed the LAPD, and I believed in the criminal justice system until the case of Bruce Lisker came across my desk," Sgt. Jim Gavin says. "And that changed me forever."