Sikeston detective's files about murder suspect missing from DPS

This photo shows documents known to have been produced by Sikeston police, based on records requests from other jurisdictions, but could not be produced by the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. The documents are related to the shooting of Larry Brooks, which was committed by Romanze Mosby. The documents refer to other records such as interview reports that also are missing from the DPS. Mosby was a suspect in the Sheila Box murder in 2000 and later confessed to the crime. But David Robinson was convicted of shooting Box and is serving a life sentence without parole. Sikeston DPS detective John Blakely investigated Mosby in the Brooks shooting case (and other shootings involving Mosby and his brother), but testified he did not know Mosby was a suspect in the Box case. (Andrew J. Whitaker)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 ~ Updated 11:33 PM

Interview summaries, evidence reports and an unknown quantity of other documents involving Romanze Mosby, who was a suspect in the 2000 murder of Sheila Box, are missing, lost or being withheld by the Sikeston, Missouri, Department of Public Safety.

Mosby was one of a handful of suspects in the Box case and the only person to have confessed to the crime, but David Robinson was convicted of the homicide.

The missing records raise more questions around a case in which Mosby's confession and the recantations of the state's two witnesses already have laid the groundwork for Robinson's ongoing fight for exoneration.

Robinson's lawyers will take the case to a Special Master, appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court, in August.

The Southeast Missourian has been studying Robinson's case closely for more than a year. After an in-depth series that examined the evidence in the case that was published in December, the newspaper has taken a deeper look into how Mosby was investigated as a suspect, especially in light of testimony by the lead detective, who said he was unaware Mosby was a suspect in the Box murder until after Robinson was convicted.

All told, the newspaper has made 19 public-records requests to 10 public institutions, seeking information about Mosby.

While Robinson was awaiting trial, Mosby and his brother Louis were investigated in four shootings that injured five people. Romanze Mosby also was cited as a juvenile for an unlawful use of a weapon charge, in which a gun was seized by police in Charleston, Missouri.

But records regarding the only shooting of which Mosby was convicted could not be found and produced by the Sikeston Department of Public Safety.

The Sikeston DPS could not find original paper files of records, though they were known to exist at one time. The records also are missing from an electronic records-management system used by the department.

On Nov. 1, 2000, Romanze Mosby shot a man named Larry Brooks who was walking with a man named Gerald Walker in Sikeston.

Detective John Blakely

Mosby, who was a suspect in the Box murder months before Robinson's trial, confessed to shooting Brooks the day after the crime, according to a probable-cause affidavit written Nov. 3, 2000, by Sikeston detective John Blakely.

Mosby, who eventually would plead guilty to the crime, said shooting Brooks was an accident. His plan had been to shoot Walker to prevent him from testifying against his younger brother, Louis Mosby, who shot Walker two months before, Blakely wrote.

Mosby spoke with Blakely for an hour, confessed to the shooting and later "took [Blakely] to the location of the gun and glove he said he used during the shooting," Blakely wrote.

The Southeast Missourian obtained Blakely's affidavit from the Scott County Circuit Court where it was included in court documents, but the affidavit was not part of the records provided by Sikeston DPS in response to the newspaper's request seeking all materials related to the Brooks shooting.

Blakely's probable-cause affidavit and interview reports are missing. The DPS did not provide any evidence reports initially.

Sikeston DPS custodian of records Capt. Bill Mygatt said the original hard copy of the file exists but cannot be located. The department instead provided screenshots from an electronic records-management system detailing the Brooks shooting and subsequent investigation.

It remains unclear what the missing hard copy may contain. Mygatt said the screenshots represent "the complete file" regarding the Brooks shooting and subsequent investigation, but the screenshots provided do not include the materials known to exist.

No Blakely records

While the records provided showed investigative reports filed by responding officers Nov. 2 and 3, 2000, there was none filed by Blakely, whose affidavit filed with the circuit court was signed the same day, Nov. 3, 2000.

A separate Sunshine Law request submitted to the Missouri State Highway Patrol confirmed Blakely seized a .32 revolver Nov. 2, 2000, and submitted it for testing by the Southeast Missouri Regional Crime Lab two days later on Nov. 4. A chain-of-custody log shows now-director Mike Williams signed the gun back into evidence in Sikeston on Nov. 7, 2000.

In addition to the chain-of-custody logs, the highway-patrol records include copies of the Sikeston DPS' own evidence receipts, also signed by Blakely, Williams and other officers, but there is no mention in the records provided by the DPS that a gun, shell casings or bullets were entered into evidence.

The highway-patrol records also show no bullets from the Brooks case were sent to the crime lab. The lab test results determined only the characteristics of the weapon and that it was operable

Another Sunshine Law request for evidence receipts from the month the gun was seized did not return records for the .32 revolver allegedly used in the Brooks shooting. Mygatt said in an email the gun and its evidence receipt were destroyed after lab testing determined the gun did not "match up to any case."

The Brooks shooting was a Class A felony, meaning the records are supposed to be retained permanently, according to the Missouri Secretary of State's office.

A judge would have approved getting rid of the gun, Mygatt said, because it was not used in a murder and thus "had no evidentiary value." Mygatt did not specify which judge or court authorized the gun's destruction.

The records provided by the Sikeston DPS do not mention the man who was convicted of the crime.

"We cannot find any report showing that Romanze Mosby was involved with or arrested for the shooting of Larry Brooks," Mygatt later said via email. "The name search for Mosby does not show any connection with this case."

Blakely and other officials with the Sikeston DPS declined multiple requests for interviews, so it is unknown why no bullets from the Brooks case were turned over to the crime lab. The records of evidence could confirm the gun Mosby turned over matched the caliber of bullet used to shoot Brooks or could show whether the bullet was a different caliber that could have been used in the Box case. There is no record indicating why Blakely was confident the gun turned in for the Brooks shooting was actually the gun used to commit the crime.

The lost records also could reveal whether Blakely was pursuing Mosby as a suspect in the Box case, a claim Blakely has denied in contradiction of testimony by another officer.

Mosby was charged with shooting Brooks Aug. 28, 2001; about 10 months after his arrest. The charge came the day before Robinson went to trial, and the same day Blakely is alleged to have made a phone call threatening a witness not to testify in Robinson's defense.

Mygatt blamed the difficulty finding the files on the department's "terrible" filing system, but when the Southeast Missourian requested the case file in another 2000 shooting involving Mosby, the department was able to locate it in a matter of days. That file contained many documents, including investigative reports, evidence documents and interview statements of suspects and witnesses, many signed by Blakely.

Asked when the Brooks file's hard copy may be found, Mygatt said it may surface the next time the department combs its files to see which need to be retained and which can be destroyed, though he said he didn't know when that might happen next.

Mygatt later indicated Sikeston DPS had given up trying to locate the file, saying via email the department has "given the search its due diligence."

The Southeast Missourian then sent the same records request to Sikeston's mayor, city manager and city attorney, explaining that records were missing and asking whether the city could provide additional resources to help locate them. The city responded after the legally required 72-hour deadline had expired, offering no additional resources and instead offering a reiteration of Mygatt's previous response.

Mygatt also said the Sikeston DPS has "petitioned the Attorney General's Office for a copy in their custody."

The Southeast Missourian filed a records request June 29 with the Scott County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, seeking all materials related to the Brooks shooting.

The Southeast Missourian filed a Sunshine Law complaint against the city of Sikeston with the Attorney General's Office, because the department is required to preserve the records, and the records still are said to exist.

The Attorney General's Office spokeswoman would not say whether the office had a conflict of interest, because it would be charged with examining the records complaint for a case file that is connected to the same case the AG's office is litigating.

The AG's office also could not provide records known to exist, specifically the only recordings of interviews that exist in the case. For more on that story, please see Wednesday's Southeast Missourian.

bmiller@semissourian.com

(573) 388-3625

tgraef@semissourian.com

(573) 388-3627

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