Sheila Keen-Warren: 'Killer clown' who shot husband's first wife three decades ago admits murder

Sheila Keen-Warren appears during a pre-trial hearing in October 2022.
Sheila Keen-Warren has been held in police custody since her arrest in 2017. Credit: AP

A killer clown, who fatally shot her lover's then-wife with a bullet to the head, has entered a plea-deal after a three-decade investigation.

Sheila Keen-Warren carried out the attack in May 1990 in Florida while wearing a clown costume.

She knocked on the door of Marlene Warren's house, handed her carnations and balloons, and then fired a gun at her.

On Tuesday, Keen-Warren, 59, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder - a plea which will likely see her released from prison in no more than two years.

Police have long suspected her of being the killer. Keen-Warren has been held in custody since her arrest in 2017.

Palm Beach County sheriff's investigators said at the time that improvements in DNA technology proved a hair - which was found in the clown's getaway car - came from her.

No public notice was given for Tuesday's plea hearing, in West Palm Beach. Instead, Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer's held it during her lunch break from another murder trial.

"Sheila Keen Warren has finally been forced to admit that she was the one who dressed as a clown and took the life of an innocent victim," Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said.

"She will be a convicted murderer for the rest of her days."

Keen Waren's attorney, Greg Rosenfeld, said "this is an incredible win" for her, while maintaining the defence that she is not the killer. Keen-Warren has denied any involvement in the murder of Ms Warren.

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The deal calls for a 12-year sentence, but Keen-Warren has already served six years while awaiting trial.

Florida law in 1990 allowed significant time off for good behavior and, as such, Mr Rosenfeld expects her to be released early next year.

Keen-Warren's trial was set to start next month and, if convicted, she would have received a life sentence.

She would likely have been paroled after serving 25 years had a life sentence been handed down.

Prosecutors had originally sought a death sentence for Keen-Warren, but later chose to drop it.

"The State of Florida originally wanted to execute her, but now she is going home in ten months," Mr Rosenfeld said.

Keen Warren's attorney, Greg Rosenfeld (above), called the sentence handed to her an 'incredible win'. Credit: AP

"While it was difficult to plead guilty to a crime she did not commit, it was kind of a no-brainer when there is a guarantee that you will be home with your family."

Mr Aronberg's office disputes Mr Rosenfeld's claim, saying she will be in prison for at least two more years.

Keen-Warren's trial had been delayed numerous times by the coronavirus pandemic and disputes over evidence.

She was an employee of Marlene Warren's husband, Michael, at his used car dealership when the shooting took place.

Keen-Warren has been his wife since 2002 - they eventually moved to Abington, Virginia, where they ran a restaurant just across the Tennessee border.

Witnesses had told investigators in 1990 that Keen-Warren - then known as Sheila Keen - and Michael Warren were having an affair, although both denied it.

Over the years, detectives said, costume shop employees identified Keen-Warren as the woman who had bought a clown suit a few days before the killing.

One of the two balloons - which was silver and read: "You’re the Greatest" - was sold at only one store, a Publix supermarket near Keen-Warren's home.

Employees told detectives a woman who looked like Keen-Warren had bought the balloons an hour before the shooting.

The presumed getaway car - a white Chrysler convertible - was found abandoned with orange, hair-like fibers inside.

The vehicle had been reported stolen from Michael Warren's dealership a month before the shooting. Keen-Warren and her then-husband repossessed cars for Mr Warren.

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.

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Mr Warren has never been charged and has denied any involvement.

Mr Aronberg, in his statement, conceded that there were holes in the state's case, saying they were caused by the three decades it took to get it to trial, including the death of key witnesses.