The Murder of Marlene Warren: Killer Clown Brought to Justice after 27 Years
The Killer Queen
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Hey, y’all. Is there anything scarier than a clown? Probably, but I think we can all agree that they are terrifying. Remember all those clown sightings in 2016? And what about John Wayne Gacy? You get the picture. And today’s case unfortunately involves a murderous clown, literally the stuff of nightmares. In May 1990, Marlene Warren was shot point blank by a clown at her West Palm Beach home. The clown approached her front door with a bouquet and a balloon before pulling out a gun and then fleeing the scene. All that was left behind was a note saying, “Goodbye.” Are you spooked yet? Keep reading to get all of the details.
At 22, Marlene married Michael Warren, who was 19 at the time. Marlene already had two sons from a previous marriage, and Mike accepted them as his own. Together, they built up various businesses, like a used-car dealership for Michael, which allowed them to live a comfortable life.
Their success led them to the wealthy Aero Club neighborhood in Wellington, Florida, where they owned a 6,500-square-foot house. The community was so luxurious that each home had its own airplane hangar and runway, so residents could fly private planes whenever they wanted.
However, things weren’t perfect for the Warrens. In 1983, Mike faced legal trouble at his car dealership when customers accused him of changing odometer readings. He was charged with a felony and ended up on probation for 18 months.
And in 1988, one of Marlene’s sons, John Ahrens, Jr., was in a fatal car accident. John was only 22, and that may be the turning point in their marriage because Michael wasn’t there for Marlene like he should have been.
By 1990, it was clear that Marlene and Mike’s marriage was in trouble. There were even rumors that Michael was having an affair with one of his employees at his used car lot, Sheila Keen. Mike allegedly helped Sheila with her rent and they would take very long lunches together.
Although both Sheila and Michael denied these rumors, Sheila’s husband clearly believed them because he left Sheila.
On a quiet May morning in 1990, Marlene Warren was hanging out with her son and his friends, enjoying breakfast around 10:45 a.m. That’s when they noticed a white Chrysler LeBaron driving up and stopping in their driveway.
Then the doorbell rang, and Marlene opened the door to find a figure dressed in a clown suit, complete with an orange wig and clown makeup. The mysterious figure held a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a silver balloon in the other as they approached Marlene Warren’s door.
Assuming it was a harmless prank or perhaps an unexpected surprise, Marlene accepted the flowers and balloon from the stranger. But in an instant, the clown revealed a hidden gun, firing a fatal shot at Marlene Warren. In a terrifying turn of events, Marlene was fatally wounded in front of her son, who could only watch in horror as his mother collapsed to the floor.
The killer clown fled the scene without uttering a word, leaving behind only a haunting message written on the balloon, which read, “Goodbye.”
After the horrifying gunshot to her face, 40-year-old Marlene Warren was quickly taken to a nearby hospital. She was in a critical state, fighting for her life. Sadly, despite the doctors’ best efforts, her condition didn’t improve. After three agonizing days, Marlene was taken off life support, and she tragically passed away.
Marlene Warren’s tragic death sent shockwaves through the community, leaving friends, family, and neighbors in disbelief. Who could commit such a heinous crime while dressed as a clown, and why? The bizarre circumstances surrounding the murder would lead investigators down a twisted path in search of answers, shedding light on the dark secrets hidden beneath the surface of Marlene Warren’s seemingly ordinary life.
The Investigation and Evidence
The detectives from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department wasted no time jumping into action, searching for the dangerous clown who had just committed a horrifying crime. Just three hours after the shooting, they received an anonymous tip pointing them toward Marlene’s husband, Mike.
When the police found Mike, he confidently told them that at the time of the murder, he was miles away from the scene, heading to the horse track with some friends. This seemed to be a solid alibi, making it difficult to suspect him.
However, the anonymous caller had also given the police another name to look into – Sheila Keen, the woman Mike was having an affair with. Sheila was a 26-year-old mom who was going through a tough time with her husband. She worked for Mike Warren, helping him repossess cars.
The Flowers and Balloon
The investigators found balloons and flowers at the crime scene and knew they needed to figure out where they came from, and in just a few days, they discovered that these items were bought from a Publix supermarket.
When they looked into it, they found out that the woman who bought the balloons and flowers looked a lot like Sheila Keen, the main suspect in the case.
The Clown Costume
But that’s not all. Two people who worked at a costume shop called The Spotlight remembered that a clown costume was bought just two days before the terrible murder. That night a frantic woman arrived at the shop as it was about to close for the day.
Desperate to get her hands on a clown costume, she pleaded with the shop clerks to let her in. She was insistent on finding everything she needed to transform herself into a clown: a brightly-colored suit, a vivid orange wig, white gloves, a classic red nose, and plenty of white makeup to completely hide her face.
White Chrysler LeBaron
Just four days after Marlene Warren was tragically shot, the police made a significant discovery. They found a white Chrysler LeBaron in a Winn-Dixie parking lot, about eight miles from where the crime took place. Marlene’s son Joe saw the mysterious clown drive away in a car that looked just like this one.
When the police searched the car, they found some intriguing evidence: orange fibers that looked a lot like hair from a clown wig, as well as several strands of brown human hair.
On the same day they discovered the LeBaron, the police got a warrant to search Sheila Keen’s apartment. According to the police reports, they found something quite interesting inside her home. They discovered orange fibers on some clothes, and these fibers seemed to match the ones from the clown wig found in the car.
The Life Insurance
Mike Warren was set to receive a considerable amount of money from his wife’s life insurance policy, which he eventually collected in June 1991, amounting to $53,359.37. A lawyer named Christopher DeSantis shared some alarming information with the investigators. He revealed that Mike Warren had asked him about the potential consequences if a husband were to kill his wife and take over her property.
DeSantis explained to Mike that if the husband had a friend commit the crime and there was no way to link the husband to the crime, he would likely get away with it. The lawyer also mentioned that if the person committing the murder wore a clown costume, it would be nearly impossible to identify them, and they could potentially escape any punishment for their actions. I have so many questions about the advice this lawyer gave, but I don’t have any answers.
And on top of all of that, Mike’s friends said that he didn’t seem all that sad about his wife’s death. Suspicious.
The Long Road to Justice
Even though there were some clues hinting that Sheila Keen might be involved in Marlene’s murder, the police couldn’t make any arrests back then. Months and years went by, and the case seemed to be at a standstill.
Then, in 2013, the police decided to give the cold case another shot thanks to advancements in DNA technology. A hair found in that white LeBaron was linked to Sheila Keen.
As the investigation continued, the police discovered that Mike and Sheila had tied the knot in 2002 and had moved to Tennessee. There, they were running a burger place called the “Purple Cow.” Interestingly, their employees and neighbors shared that Sheila had not only taken Mike’s last name but also adopted a fresh first name, going by “Debbie.” Okay, Debbie.
A person who used to work at The Purple Cow shared a story with investigators that added a twist to the case. They said that one of their coworkers told them about a night when Sheila Keen-Warren had too much to drink and let out a shocking secret.
She admitted to buying a clown costume and killing Marlene Warren. The reason? Marlene was standing in the way of Sheila’s secret relationship with Marlene’s husband.
On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, Sheila Warren was found in Washington County, Virginia, close to the Tennessee border. The police arrested her without any problems or drama.
When the police arrested Sheila Keen-Warren the woman accused of Marlene Warren’s death in 2017, she seemed confused and asked them why she was under arrest and asked for her husband Mike.
Once she was brought to the sheriff’s office, Sheila casually chatted with the officers until they told her the shocking news: she was being accused of being the shooter in the infamous 27-year-old clown murder case.
Upon hearing this, Sheila’s demeanor changed completely. She placed her head on the desk and refused to speak another word.
Plea and Sentence
Sheila’s trial was delayed numerous times and was slated to begin in 2023.
At first, Sheila claimed she was innocent and pleaded not guilty in court. However, during a court session in April 2023, she changed her mind and decided to enter a guilty plea. The deal she made with the court stated that she would serve a 12-year sentence.
But, her defense attorneys, particularly lawyer, Greg Rosenfeld, told people outside the courtroom that she might be back home in just 10 months. If she had been found guilty without the plea deal, she could have faced a life sentence.
Even though Sheila has been in jail since she was arrested, the judge, Scott Suskauer, agreed to give her credit for the 2,039 days she’s already spent behind bars. This time will be counted toward her sentence.
It’s important to note that even though Sheila pleaded guilty, her lawyer is still saying she’s actually innocent.
So, after all these years since Marlene Warren’s murder, it’s pretty wild to think the case finally got solved. It’s all thanks to an old DNA sample and the never-give-up attitude of the investigators. We can’t forget how this whole thing shook up the lives of those involved, like Marlene’s son Joe Ahrens and everyone in the community. This case really shows us that, no matter what, we should keep going and never stop seeking justice.
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