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She saved a friend from life in prison

Updated 12:01 PM ET, Tue March 11, 2014
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Sometimes the act of one person can alter the entire course of someone else's life. For Joyce Ride, that act was befriending a prisoner named Gloria Killian. Their friendship marked the beginning of an amazing journey for both women. Click through the gallery for details. CNN
In 1981, Gloria Killian was a former law student in her 30s who'd never been in trouble with the law. Courtesy Gloria Killian
In December of that year, Sacramento County, California, sheriff's deputies discovered a bloody crime scene at the home of coin collector Ed Davies and his wife, Grace. Sacramento District Attorney's Office
Ed and Grace Davies had been tied up on their kitchen floor with pillows put over their heads before they were shot. Sacramento District Attorney's Office
Prosecutors said this was the gun used to shoot the Davies couple. Ed Davies died at the scene. Grace Davies, who had also been shot, was able to free herself and crawl away from the house to reach help. She was later able to testify at trial. Sacramento District Attorney's Office
Police found the Davies house ransacked in an apparent search for gold and silver. Ed Davies was rumored to have troves of valuable coins and precious metals hidden throughout the home. Sacramento District Attorney's Office
The attackers dug up safes that Ed Davies had hidden in the ground. Sacramento District Attorney's Office
One of the home invaders was Stephen DeSantis, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote. DeSantis entered the house disguised as a phone repairman.
DeSantis was joined inside the house by his cousin Gary Masse, according to the appeals court document. An "anonymous phone call to authorities identified DeSantis and Masse as the perpetrators. When officers attempted to find Masse, they encountered his wife, Joanne, who told the officers that a woman named Gloria planned the robbery," appeals court documents said.
After Masse began cooperating with law enforcement, he showed them buried suitcases containing stolen items from the Davies house. Sacramento District Attorney's Office
Police arrested Killian and held her without bail for four months. She said she had nothing to do with the crime and didn't know Masse. Police released Killian for lack of evidence. She was arrested again and put on trial after Masse agreed to testify that Killian was the mastermind of the Davies crime.
Detectives found Killian's trip diary filled with random notes. Some notes got their attention, such as "she always waiting in window" and "don't approach at coin shop." During her trial, prosecutors claimed this was evidence that Killian had been casing the Davies couple. Gloria Killian
Killian said her trip diary was filled with notes from various jobs -- including one as a process server for a local attorney. She kept all kinds of notes in the book, and claimed that prosecutors cherry-picked a series of unrelated notes to use as evidence of her guilt. Jurors convicted Killian on charges of murder, robbery and conspiracy and sentenced her to 32 years to life. She was locked up the California Institute for Women at Chino. Sacramento District Attorney's Office
Ride, who did volunteer work with inmates for a nonprofit organization called Friends Outside, befriended Killian while she was in prison. Eventually, Killian shared her story with Ride, who was so convinced of Killian's innocence she hired a private investigator and a legal team. Courtesy Joyce Ride
Ride's investigator uncovered this letter by the prosecution dated April 1985, "in which the government stated its intention to support Masse's resentencing as a result of his cooperation," the appeals court wrote. The letter would "have been valuable to the defense in impeaching Masse's credibility before the jury." But prosecutors didn't share the letter with Killian's lawyers. Masse's "cooperation ... deserves consideration by the Court in determining the appropriate sentence," the letter says.
Another letter uncovered during the investigation was written by Masse and dated April 21, 1986, which was after Killian's trial. According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the letter reflects "Masse's state of mind during his testimony. This letter states flatly: 'I gave you DeSantis and Killian. ... I even lied my ass off on the stand for you people.'" See Masse's handwritten letter and the official transcript of the letter.
Both letters led to the appeals court overturning her conviction, resulting in Killian's 2002 release. For the first time in nearly two decades, she was free. Ride offered Killian a place to stay in her home. "All of Gloria's relatives died while she was in prison," Ride says. Today, a dozen years later, Ride and Killian remain housemates and close friends. CNN