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the suspect "The killer clown" In 1990, the Florida woman was convicted of murder

One May morning in 1990, a clown showed up at Marlene Warren’s door, gave her carnations and balloons, and then shot her to death in front of her son. On Tuesday, her husband’s alleged mistress and future wife finally pleaded guilty to being the killer — though she still insists she wasn’t — in a closure. The incident is strange Even by Florida standards.

Sheila Keen-Warren, 59, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a deal that would likely get him out of prison within a year. The case was closed after Marlene Warren’s family agreed to a plea deal, CBS affiliate WPEC-TV reported.

Long suspected as the shooter, Keen-Warren has been jailed for first-degree murder since 2017, when Palm Beach County sheriff’s investigators said improvements in DNA technology proved a hair found in the clown’s getaway car came from him.


Sheila Keene Warren, left, is arrested in the 1990 death of Marlene Warren, right, in Virginia. (CBSNews/WNCN-TV)

Palm Beach County State’s Attorney Dave Arenberg said in a statement that the plea agreement “obtained a measure of justice” for Marlene Warren and her son. No public notice was given for Tuesday’s plea hearing in West Palm Beach, which would have otherwise drawn crowds of reporters and onlookers. Instead, it was handled quietly during a lunch break from another murder trial by Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer.

“Sheila Keen Warren has finally been forced to admit that she was the one who dressed up as a clown and took the life of an innocent victim. She will be a convicted murderer for the rest of her days,” said Arenberg.

Her attorney, Greg Rosenfeld, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that “this is an incredible victory for Ms. Keen-Warren,” still insisting she is not the killer.

The deal called for a 12-year sentence, but Keen-Warren has already spent six years awaiting trial. Also, Florida law in 1990 allowed for significant time off for good behavior, so Rosenfeld hopes to be released early next year. His trial was scheduled to begin next month, and he could have been sentenced to life in prison if convicted. Originally, prosecutors sought the death penalty but ultimately dropped it.

Marlene Warren

Paramedics carry Marlene Warren into an ambulance on May 26, 1990, after she was shot in front of her home in Wellington, Florida.

Mark Randall/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

“The state of Florida originally wanted to put him to death, but now he’s going home in 10 months,” Rosenfeld said. “Although it was difficult to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit, it was a no-brainer when there was a guarantee that you would be home with your family.”

Marlene Warren’s son Joseph Ahrens watched the proceedings online. When he saw his mother murdered at just 21 years old, and now in his 50s, his only message to the court and Keen-Warren was, God be with him.

At the time of the shooting, Keen-Warren was an employee of Marlene Warren’s husband, Michael, at his used car lot. Since 2002, she has been his wife—they eventually moved to Abington, Virginia, where they ran a restaurant across the Tennessee border.

Witnesses told investigators in 1990 that Sheila Warren and Michael Warren were having an affair, although both denied it.

Over the years, detectives said, clothing store employees have identified Sheila Warren as the woman who bought a clown suit days before the murder.

And one of the two balloons — a silver one that read, “You’re the Greatest” — was sold at only one store, a Publix supermarket near her home. Employees told detectives that a woman who looked like Warren had purchased the balloons an hour before the shooting.

The supposed getaway car was found abandoned with orange, hair-like fibers inside. A white Chrysler convertible was reportedly stolen from Michael Warren’s car a month before the shooting. Sheila Warren and her then-husband restored the car for her.

Relatives told The Palm Beach Post in 2000 that Marlene Warren, who was 40 when she died, suspected her husband was having an affair and wanted to leave him. But the car lot and other property were in his name and he feared what might happen if he did.

“If anything happened to me, Mike did it,” she told her mother.

But Rosenfeld said the state’s case is falling apart. One DNA sample somehow shows both male and female genes, and another could come from one in every 20 women — even Marlene Warren, he said.

And even if that hair came from Kin-Warren, it could have been deposited before the car was stolen. He said Ahrens and another witness also told detectives the car they found was not the killer’s, even though investigators insisted it was.

Aronberg acknowledged in his statement that there were holes in the case, saying it took three decades to come to trial, including the deaths of key witnesses.

Michael Warren was convicted in 1994 of grand theft, racketeering and odometer tampering. He served nearly four years in prison — a sentence his then-attorneys said was based on suspicions he was involved in his wife’s death. He was never charged with her murder.

In January 2019, “48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant Went to Mike Warren at his house.

Warren did not open her front door, but spoke to Van Sant through the glass door for more than seven minutes. When Van Sant asked, “Did you have anything to do with planning to kill your wife Marlene?” Warren replied, “I didn’t.” When asked again, the answer is “of course not.”

Van Sant also asked Warren if he suggested Sheila dress up as a clown. Warren replied “Who says he even did that?”

He went on to say, “I don’t think he had anything to do with it. If I thought he had anything to do with it, I wouldn’t be with him.”

Warren did not return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment on Tuesday.

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