SIKESTON, Mo. (AP) — A southeast Missouri police detective's badge and gun have been removed after a judge questioned his handling of a 2000 homicide investigation and recommended that a man serving a life sentence for the killing should be freed.

John Blakely was initially placed on administrative leave after Judge Darrell Missey found in February that he was "lacking in candor or competence, or both" in the investigation that helped send David Robinson to prison for life for Sheila Box's killing. Sikeston City manager Jonathan Douglass said Wednesday that Blakely later was reassigned, first to the city's airport division and then to the fire division, because city policy limits administrative leaves to 20 days.

Blakely remains on the city payroll but has no law enforcement duties, the Southeast Missourian reports. The city wants an outside investigation before taking a final personal action against Blakely.

Since Robinson was sentenced, another man has confessed to Box's killing and two witnesses have recanted. Missey, who was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court to hear evidence in the case, wrote that the evidence "reveals a clear pattern of conduct" by Blakely in which he put forth "unreliable evidence" against Robinson and "ignored or suppressed facts which pointed away from him." The Missouri Supreme Court hasn't yet ruled on the recommendation. Blakely doesn't have a listed phone number.

City officials also requested the U.S. Attorney's Office investigate Blakely's handling of the Robinson investigation. Douglass said he expects the actual investigation would be handled by the FBI rather than federal prosecutors.

But Douglass said he has received no response from federal officials despite repeated inquiries into the status of the city's request. He suggested federal officials may be waiting for the Missouri Supreme Court to rule on the Robinson case before acting on the city's request for an investigation. If there is no federal investigation, city officials will have to decide how to proceed, Douglass said, adding that he and the council want an outside investigation.

"I feel like we need to investigate it because I want people to trust the integrity of our police department," Douglass said.

Blakely investigated cases that came after the Robinson case, the city manager said. "If he made mistakes in the Robinson case, people could question if he made mistakes later on," Douglass said, while adding that changes were made after Box's killing in how the department investigates major crimes.

Sikeston's Public Safety Department now participates with officers from other law enforcement agencies in a major case squad, Douglass said.

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Information from: Southeast Missourian, http://www.semissourian.com