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A judge has recommended that a southeast Missouri man should be exonerated for a 2000 homicide after finding that a detective lacked “candor or competence, or both,” during the investigation and prosecution.

The city of Sikeston placed Detective John Blakely on leave after Judge Darrell Missey made his recommendation Friday in the case of David Robinson, who is serving life in prison without parole for the 2000 murder of Sheila Box in Sikeston. Missey was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court to make a recommendation as part of a review of Robinson’s conviction.

The review was ordered after The Southeast Missourian wrote a series of stories that detailed problems with the case, including that two state eyewitnesses had recanted and another man, Romanze Mosby, confessed. There was little investigation into Mosby’s involvement in the case. No physical evidence ties Robinson to the murder.

In his report released Friday, Missey said Blakley “is the least credible witness to have testified before this Court in this matter.”

In an email to the Southeast Missourian on Saturday, Sikeston city manager Jonathan Douglass said Blakely was placed on leave pending a review of Missey’s recommendation “and determination of our next steps.” Douglass said the city has asked the U.S. Attorney to review the investigation. He said he would not make further comment until the state Supreme Court rules on Missey’s recommendations. It isn’t known when the court will rule.

Robinson has contended that Sikeston police and others framed him. Robinson said he believes he was targeted because he had several run-ins with law enforcement before Box’s killing.

Blakely has denied all the accusations in sworn testimony. There is no public record of a phone number for Blakely and the Southeast Missourian said he has consistently ignored requests for comment.

“The evidence in this case reveals a clear pattern of conduct by Detective Blakely in when he brought forward unreliable evidence that pointed toward David Robinson and ignored or suppressed facts which pointed away from him,” wrote Missey, who said he believed Blakely decided Robinson was guilty and gathered facts to support that belief while disregarding other evidence.

Mosby’s confession was recorded in 2004, but it was ruled invalid in previous appeals because he refused to authorize it formally and killed himself in prison in 2009. No court had considered the confession until Missey listened to it during a hearing in August. Other Mosby acquaintances said Mosby had confessed to shooting Box, but their testimony was ruled hearsay.

Blakely testified under oath in 2015 he didn’t know Mosby was a suspect until after the conviction, saying “that would have been followed up on if we would have received that information.” He initially denied knowing that Mosby was a suspect but later changed his story and told the court he was aware Mosby might have been involved in Box’s killing but did not investigate further.

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