Dateline | January 25, 2013
>>> the comic book murder files came out of the archives, and the lead detective blowing off keith. the lieutenant had identified with the victim.
>> i was approximately the same age and had children the same age and maybe that was something that just stuck with me.
>> this is a tough one to pick up the stack.
>> yeah. i knew that going in, but i always operate under the theory you don't shoot, you don't score and i owed it to myself, because it was something i had told myself, but i owed it to barb, too.
>> good, old-fashioned shoe leather cops to make the calls and knock on doors. so he recruited veteran detectives jimmy hall and rico. the two of them went into the old boxes, reading and re-reading yellowing police report , but there's a reason crimes go into the cold case file and stay unsolved, a lack of evidence. the three wondered if they had one of those here.
>> is this even doable and finally when we came to the conclusion that it's doable, we need to notify the family and that's when the family contacted them.
>> the cold case detectives were painfully aware giving barb george 's family false hopes after 17 years, but in early 2007 the detectives laid out what they find warts and all for barbara 's brother joe and other family members.
>> we were honest with them and we don't know how successful we're going to be here.
>> still, after that meeting with the detectives, barb's family and friends allowed themselves to be optimistic.
>> i told my sister when we walked out of that police station , i said something will come out of this.
>> joe and mary, his girlfriend back then had broken up after barbara 's murder, but they remained close over the years.
>> my dad was in the hospital at the time and he was dying of cancer and i told my dad what was going on, and he could barely even talk and he lit right up and he said, good. good. god's going to get him.
>> the detectives started their investigation as though it were july 13, 1990 . the 911 call had just come in. all three of them knew this wasn't going to be an episode of "csi" forensic science saving the day.
>> no weapon, no blood smears --
>> in terms of what people are used to seeing nowadays with dna, we didn't have it. we just had to do detective work which means get out there and interview people.
>> they say without pre-conceived theories they chased down the old leads again, the speeding car, the man in the old greek fisherman's cap and the bearded lady and re-examined the old motive. was it possible that barbara had been shot to death over a pricey, collectible comic book ?
>> thank you, sir.
>> the cold case detectives interviewed over a hundred people and of all those fresh 2007 interviews, the one they did with this man turned out to be the game changer. his name is mike renan a girl's softball coach, now confined to a wheelchair after 2003 . he was a college senior and a speederman fanatic. on july 13, the night of the murder, detectives learned he had placed a call to the comics world store. he thought it had been around 5:30 or so about 30 minutes before the murder. the avid collector wanted to know why one of his comic book his zoomed in value. a voice he knew very well answered the phone, it was michael george , the shop owner.
>> he sounded like he was busy and in a hurry to get off the phone.
>> did he say i'm busy, there are people in the shop, i have to go.
>> no, just short.
>> just something you could hear in his voice.
>> he would b.s. a little bit and there was no time for b.s.
>> the cold case cop his struck gold. mike's story was the missing puzzle piece the detective his been looking for for years. if renault 's account is true it does nothing less than demolish michael george 's alibi that he was napping at his mother's house when barb was murdered around 6:00. renault 's call meant george was lying and he talked to the comic store owner at the shop and that that brief conversation must had taken place a few minutes before barb was killed.
>> the embarrassing bit about this nugget of a clue is that mike had told the very same story to the police in 1990 , the day after the murder. what looked like a case breaker in 2007 had simply slipped through the cracks back when. they'd had it in the case file all along. in clear handwriting, there it was. a record of renault 's july 14, phone call to the police. mr. renault stated he called comic world around 5:30 and talked with the owner michael george .
>> that's the one piece that was missing.
>> even so, it was a piece that still had flaws as evidence. there were no existing phone logs to corroborate renault ale story or to pin down the exact time he said he placed the call. to this day, former detective donald steckman doesn't know how that note from renault went a stray, but he said he was unaware of the comic book collector's story about talking to the owner of the shop minutes before the murder.
>> how did you not see it? well, i never saw it. if we had seen it we would not be sitting here today.
>> you would have been for an arrest and indictment in 1991 .
>> no doubt about it.
>> now the investigative lead pointed just one way, toward the husband.
>> it just kept coming back to mike and it was a funnel effect. we started off looking at a lot of things and a lot of people and it just narrowed down just like a funnel.
>> it was time for the cold case detectives to take a road trip to pennsylvania. a trip across miles in time. they were going to make a surprise visit to michael george at comics world. was the one-time husband finally collectible?
>>> coming up, after 17 years a conversation a suspected killer never expected.