Marlene Warren died after opening the door to a clown who shot her dead in front of her son in 1990.
Wednesday, April 26, 2023 03:20, UK
Florida’s notorious killer clown murder case eventually ended with the longtime suspect striking a plea deal, despite her attorney’s insistence that she not pull the trigger.
On Tuesday, Sheila Keen-Warren pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 1990 shooting of Marlene Warren.
Ms Warren died after opening the door to a clown who presented her with carnations and balloons and then shot her in front of her son.
Keen-Warren, 59, was reportedly the mistress of Ms Warren’s husband and married him 12 years after the shooting.
She has been in jail since 2017 awaiting trial for first-degree murder after investigators said improvements in DNA technology proved a hair found in the clown’s getaway car was hers.
Under the deal, she could be released early next year – seven years after her arrest.
Keen-Warren’s attorney, Greg Rosenfeld, insisted she was not the killer, but accepted the deal so she could be released from prison soon.
Mr. Rosenfeld described it as “an incredible win” for his client, while maintaining her innocence.
Prosecutors called the plea deal “a measure of justice.” The deal carries a 12-year sentence, but Keen-Warren has already served six years awaiting trial.
Florida law in 1990 allowed a significant good behavior exemption, so Mr. Rosenfeld expects to have her released early next year.
Image: Sheila Keen-Warren arrested in 2017. Image: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office via AP
The trial should begin next month
Initial calls for the death penalty had already been dropped.
Mr Rosenfeld said: “The state of Florida originally wanted to execute her, but now she’s going home in 10 months.”
He added that while it was “difficult to plead guilty to a crime she didn’t commit,” it was “a piece of cake” when there was a guarantee you’d be home with your family.
Palm Beach County Attorney’s Office Dave Aronberg disputes Mr. Rosenfeld’s allegation and says she has at least two more years in prison.
He said Keen-Warren was “finally forced to admit that she was the one who dressed up as a clown and took the life of an innocent victim”.
Keen-Warren’s trial was due to start next month and she could face a possible life sentence. At the time of filming, she was working for Mrs. Warren’s husband, Michael, at his used car dealership.
She has been his wife since 2002 – they eventually moved to Virginia where they ran a restaurant just across the Tennessee border.
This is a restricted version of the story, so unfortunately this content is not available.
Open the full version
Witnesses had told investigators in 1990 that then-Sheila Keen and Michael Warren were having an affair, though both denied it.
The horrific crimes of Killer Clown and Candy Man
Suspected serial killer arrested on ‘hunt’
Image: Marlene Warren was gunned down on her doorstep Image: Family Handout
Over the years, detectives said, costume shop employees identified Keen-Warren as the woman who bought a clown suit a few days before the murder.
The suspected getaway car was found abandoned with orange hair-like fibers inside. The car was reported stolen from Warren’s dealership a month before the shooting. Keen-Warren and her then-husband impounded cars for him.
Relatives told the Palm Beach Post in 2000 that Ms. Warren suspected her husband was having an affair and wanted to leave him.
But the dealership and other properties were in her name and she feared what might happen if she did. He has never been charged and has denied involvement.
But Mr Rosenfeld said the state’s case was falling apart, saying one DNA sample somehow showed both male and female genes and the other could be from one in 20 women – even Ms Warren.
And even if that hair was Keen-Warren’s, it could have been deposited before the car was reported stolen.
Mr Aronberg acknowledged there are holes in the case, saying they were caused by the three decades it took to bring him to justice, including the deaths of key witnesses.