Was it possible an innocent man had been convicted? Gavin wondered. He was determined to find out, but his superiors had other ideas, he said. Supportive at first, they had grown impatient as his investigation dragged on into 2004.
His job was to look into complaints of police misconduct, they said, not to reinvestigate decades-old homicides. Gavin said he was told to limit his inquiry to Monsue's letter and wrap it up quickly.
"I was told to shut it down," he said. "I was told I was done."
Gavin followed orders and turned in an abbreviated report. He wrote, but did not submit, a longer report. The title page read: "The Case of Bruce Lisker: Did a faulty investigation by an LAPD officer lead to Lisker's murder conviction?"
Without telling his superiors, Gavin also gave Ingels a copy of the criminalist's report on the bloody footprint.
"He told me that he was probably going to catch some heat for doing that," Ingels said. "But he said: 'I'm OK with that.' "
Last July, Lisker found in his prison mail a letter on LAPD stationery. It was the department's response to his complaint. An investigation had found no merit to his allegation that Monsue lied to the parole board, wrote Capt. James A. Rubert, the detective's immediate superior.
As for Lisker's broader claims -- that Ryan was the real killer and that Hughes had lied on the witness stand -- those had already been addressed by the courts, Rubert wrote. No further investigation was warranted.
Lisker said he was disappointed but not surprised. Ingels, a former Pomona policeman, was furious. He called Gavin, who told him that he had been ordered to stop investigating. Ingels wrote Police Chief William J. Bratton, accusing Gavin's bosses of a cover-up.
In response, the department launched a fresh investigation into Monsue's conduct and that of Gavin's superiors.
Gavin is also under investigation -- for revealing confidential information about the case. In February, he was transferred from Internal Affairs to the department's training facility in Sylmar.
The evidence Gavin collected was turned over to a detective in the LAPD's cold-case unit, who conducted a quick review and concluded that Lisker was guilty.
The review turned up a previously overlooked piece of evidence: an old autopsy photo of Dorka Lisker's shaved head, showing a bruise near her right ear. It bore a wavy pattern resembling a shoe print. LAPD officials said a preliminary examination linked the print to Bruce's shoes, suggesting that he had stomped on his mother's head.
In March, Times reporters asked whether police had compared the bruise to the mystery footprint found in the bathroom. They had not. Deputy Chief Gary Brennan said LAPD experts would perform such an analysis.
But Brennan said he had no doubt that Lisker was the killer.
"An innocent man is not in prison," he said.
Fed Up With Questions
Monsue says he has a "fundamental rule" as an investigator: "Keep it simple, stupid." Lisker was the obvious suspect, the detective said in an interview, and he remains convinced of his guilt.
Monsue denied lying to the parole board about the discovery of the missing grocery money. He said it was his practice to document such developments in writing. He could not explain why no report could be found, he said.
With visible indignation, he insisted that the issue had no bearing on Lisker's guilt or innocence.
"It's mildly interesting to me that they are calling me a liar, OK? What does it prove?" Monsue said. "We've got a lying, cheating, murdering son of a bitch in prison that's making these allegations
As for Ryan, Monsue said he had trouble believing that the teenager would have killed someone over $150. More important, he said, he had no evidence placing Ryan at the crime scene.
Monsue said he was unaware of the phone call made from the Lisker home around the time of the murder. He said it did not necessarily implicate Ryan. He suggested that Lisker may have tried to call Ryan's mother and accidentally misdialed.
"You've got to keep it simple, stupid," Monsue said. "Usually, people are killed by people close to them."
He said the criminalist's finding that the bloody footprint in the bathroom was not Lisker's stirred his curiosity, "but I would not draw any conclusions ... until I did some work on it."
Monsue said he was fed up with answering questions about his investigation.
"I've got nothing to lose now. I've got my 30 years on, OK?.... My pension is in the bank. But I'm getting very tired of trying to explain this over and over and over and over."
A Stunning Discovery
The missing grocery money has been a recurring issue in People vs. Lisker. At the trial, Rabichow told jurors it was not in Dorka's purse, indicating that Bruce stole it.
Mulcahy said the failure to find the money was a glaring weakness in the prosecution's case. If Lisker took the money, where was it? he asked.
Years later, Monsue told the parole board it had turned up in the attic.