Marlene Warren, her 22-year-old son and his friends saw a white Chrsyler LeBaron pull into the driveway of her South Florida home. They saw a clown get out with balloons and flowers, which the clown offered to Warren when she answered the door.
Then, the clown shot Marlene Warren in the face.
Warren died two days later. That was Memorial Day weekend 1990 in the Palm Beach County suburb of Wellington.
Now, 27 years later, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office investigators believe they know, and have arrested a suspect they say was behind the clown face — Sheila Keen Warren, 54.
A suspect in the initial investigation, she was arrested Tuesday in Virginia’s Washington County, where she owns a 4,100-square-foot, three-bedroom house on a 1.9-acre subdivision lot. That’s about a 50-minute drive from her Kingsport, Tennessee, home where she lives with her husband since 2002, Michael Warren. That’s the same Michael Warren who was married to Marlene in 1990.
There was no description, just red hair and a Bozo nose.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Bob Ferrell in 1990
Michael Warren, now 65, also was a suspect in the 1990 investigation. Within a year after the murder, detectives focused on Michael Warren and Sheila Keen, a Wellington resident who ran a car repossession business with her estranged husband, Richard. One of their customers was Michael Warren, owner of West Palm Beach’s Bargain Motors as well as a rental car agency with Marlene Warren.
Chyrsler LeBarons filled South Florida rental car parking lots at the time the way Ford Crown Victorias fill retirement community parking lots now. But police believed Michael Warren and Sheila Keen stole the rented LeBaron driven by the killer.
Also, witnesses at a costume shop tentatively identified Sheila Keen as buying a clown costume two days before the murder. Publix employees said a woman of Keen’s description bought flowers and balloons about 90 minutes before the murder.
And Keen’s neighbors said Warren visited Keen often.
A Miami Herald story the Friday before 1991’s Memorial Day weekend read, “At a press conference marking the one-year anniversary since Warren’s death, detectives Steve Newell, Lou Sessa and Bill Williams said there is no doubt in their minds that Sheila Keen was the killer clown, and that Marlene Warren’s husband Michael played some part in the murder.
“We have two suspects, and they are Sheila Keen and Michael Warren,” Lt. Steve Newell said.”
While never charged with Marlene Warren’s murder, Michael Warren did go down in 1992 on a trunkload of charges connected with his ownership of West Palm Beach’s Bargain Motors — one count of racketeering, six counts of grand theft between $300 and $20,000, and 21 counts of odometer tampering. He did three years and nine months of a nine-year prison sentence.
The sheriff’s office said at the time it discovered his crimes while investigating her murder. Michael Warren and his lawyer claimed selective prosecution because detectives felt he hadn’t helped enough with the investigation.
“I could have raped a bunch of women and gotten less time than this,” Warren said as he was sentenced to jail in 1994.
In 2000, as DNA testing became more common, the Palm Beach sheriff’s office hoped the orange fibers and brown hair found in the LeBaron would lead them to Marlene Warren’s killer.
The agency reopened the investigation in 2014, which is when it says it learned of Keen and Michael’s 2002 marriage. They also learned the couple was operating The Purple Cow restaurant in Kingsport together.
A grand jury issued a first-degree murder indictment of Sheila Keen Warren Aug. 31.
The Miami Herald’s initial 1990 story on the shooting quoted Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Bob Ferrell as saying witnesses were of limited help:
“There was no description, just red hair and a Bozo nose.”