It was like a horror movie. A murder case of an assailant dressed as a clown picked up new leads after a woman was arrested nearly 20 years later, now married to the victim’s husband.
Scratching your head? Yeah we know.
Police arrested on Tuesday 54-year old Sheila Keen-Warren for the murder shooting of Marlene Warren at her home in Palm Beach County, Florida on May 26, 1990.
Sheila married Marlene’s husband, Michael in 2002 although police have long suspected them of having an affair.
Nearly 27 years ago, Marlene answered a knock on her door and found a person
wearing white makeup, an orange wig, a red nose, and a clown costume who then handed her a basket of carnations and two balloons, before pulling out a revolver and shooting Marlene in the face.
The clown-costumed shooter then calmly walked to a getaway vehicle and drove away.
Warren died two days later in hospital.
“We have two suspects, and they are Sheila Keen and Michael Warren,” Lt. Steve Newell told media as far back as 1991, on the first anniversary of the death, according to a report on Buzzfeed.
Sheila and her ex-husband repossessed cars for a living, frequently working with the Warrens, who owned a car dealership and car rental firm. Neighbors told police Michael Warren was a frequent visitor to Keen’s apartment.
However, circumstantial evidence was all detectives had: A woman matching Sheila’s description was witnessed buying a clown outfit a few days before the homicide.
Store clerks also said a woman resembling Sheila purchased a bouquet of flowers and some balloons from a Publix supermarket near her apartment on the day of the crime.
The getaway car, a white Chrysler LeBaron convertible, was also a key part of the initial investigation. Marlene’s son, who was 21 years old at the time, witnessed the shooting and chased after the car, but lost track of it. It was later found abandoned in a parking lot.
The vehicle had been stolen from Payless Car Rental some six weeks before the killing. A couple had been trying to return the rental car to Payless, but the company was closed. Looking in the Yellow Pages, they found another local car company with the words “Payless” and “A Bargain Auto Rentals,” a business owned by Michael Warren.
The couple told detectives that a man who answered the phone at A Bargain Auto Rentals told them to leave the car outside Payless, where it soon disappeared.
When the car was eventually found abandoned after the killing, police discovered orange wig fibers inside of it, as well as long brown hairs similar to Keen’s.
The murder weapon and clown costume were never recovered.
In 1991, Michael Warren denied having an affair with Sheila and told the Miami Herald he could not say whether she killed his wife, wrote Buzzfeed.
“I don’t know who did it,” he said.
In 2014, the cold case unit of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office reopened the investigation, recontacting witnesses and conducting fresh DNA analysis.
It was then that investigators learned that Sheila had married Michael Warren in 2002, and that the pair were living in Tennessee and operating a restaurant together, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Authorities presented their case to a grand jury on Aug. 31, successfully obtaining an indictment for first-degree murder against Keen.
She was arrested in Virginia on Tuesday and is awaiting extradition to Florida.
A spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment further on the investigation, saying the indictment was under seal.
Detectives investigating the homicide did find evidence to convict Michael Warren of odometer tampering, grand theft, and racketeering in the mid-’90s.
He served three years in prison before being released in 1997.