Missouri man to be released after nearly 20 years in prison

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is recommending that charges be dismissed against a man who has served nearly 20 years in prison for the death of a southeast Missouri woman.

Hawley made the recommendation in a letter to Scott County Prosecutor Paul Boyd that David Robinson of Sikeston should be released from the Jefferson City Correctional Center. Robinson has been behind bars since being convicted in 2001 of killing of Sheila Box, who was shot to death after leaving a Sikeston bar she co-owned with $300 in cash and checks. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

It was not immediately clear when Robinson would be released.

Hawley’s decision comes after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled May 1 that Robinson’s constitutional rights had been violated during the investigation into Box’s death and his trial. The court gave Hawley 30 days to review the case and decide whether to try Robinson again. The attorney general said Monday he made his decision after reviewing the court’s order and evaluating the evidence available for a future retrial.

The ruling comes about three months after Judge Darrell Massey, who was appointed by the state Supreme Court to review the case, cited “clear and convincing evidence” that Robinson “is actually innocent of that crime.”

During the trial, prosecutors presented no physical evidence linking Robinson to the crime and two witnesses who placed him at the scene recanted. Another man, Romanze Mosby, confessed to the murder to several people in 2004 but refused to sign an affidavit to make the confession official. He killed himself in his jail cell five years later and his confession was never introduced as evidence.

Massey was appointed to study the case after an investigation by the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau raised questions about the conviction, particularly the actions of the lead investigator, Sikeston detective John Blakely. The newspaper investigation found that Blakely knew Mosby was a suspect before the case went to trial but did not investigate the lead. In court testimony, Blakely denied that he framed Robinson.

Blakely was suspended after Missey’s findings. He resigned from the force last week.

Robinson grew up in Sikeston, a city of about 16,000 people about 140 miles (225 kilometers) southeast of St. Louis. He acknowledged to The Associated Press in March that he was a troublemaker and has a criminal record that began when he was 15 and included burglary, drug charges and assault. But he has always said he was at a family gathering when Box was shot, and three relatives verified his alibi. Even Box’s daughter said in March that she believed Robinson was innocent.