(FLORIDA) — A woman has admitted to dressing up as a clown and fatally shooting her husband’s first wife at the victim’s Florida home more than 30 years ago, though her attorney still maintains her innocence.
Sheila Keen Warren, 59, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a Palm Beach County court on Tuesday as part of a plea deal reached weeks before her trial was set to begin. She was arrested in 2017 for the murder of Marlene Warren, who was shot in the face after opening the front door of her home in Wellington in 1990 and died two days later.
Keen Warren withdrew her plea of not guilty and changed her plea to guilty during Tuesday’s court appearance. The plea deal calls for a 12-year sentence, though Keen Warren’s attorney, Greg Rosenfeld, told reporters outside the courtroom that he expects her to be home in 10 months. If convicted, she faced a life sentence.
Keen Warren, who has been in jail since her arrest, will receive 2,039 days of credit toward her sentence, Judge Scott Suskauer said while accepting the deal.
Rosenfeld called the plea “a big win for our client” — while continuing to deny her guilt in the shocking crime.
“It was an incredibly hard decision for our client, saying you did something that you didn’t do,” Rosenfeld said. “I mean, nothing’s harder than that.”
“Our client wanted to go home,” he added.
During the hearing, prosecutors outlined evidence they would have brought forward during the trial that they say implicated Keen Warren in the fatal shooting on May 26, 1990 — including testimony from witnesses from a local costume shop that placed her buying a clown costume and wig approximately two days before the incident.
Palm Beach County Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott said that witnesses inside the home at the time of the shooting saw “a clown come to the front door, hand Miss Warren balloons and flowers before shooting her in the face,” then drive away in a white Chrysler LeBaron.
A white Chrysler LeBaron was found approximately four days later in a Winn-Dixie parking lot that had “trace evidence,” including long brown human hairs and what law enforcement officers “described as artificial orange-like fibers,” Scott said. A search of Keen Warren’s home at the time turned up similar fibers, he said.
At the time of the murder, Keen Warren was a repossession agent who would repossess cars for the victim’s husband, who operated a used car and rental business, prosecutors said.
Keen Warren and the victim’s husband, Michael Warren, would go on to own a restaurant in Tennessee and marry in 2002, prosecutors said. The two lived in Abingdon, Virginia, until Keen Warren’s arrest in 2017.
The facts of the case “would lead a jury to find her guilty of the crime,” Reid said.
When asked by the judge if they were aware of any physical evidence that may exonerate the defendant, Keen Warren and her attorney both responded no.
Warren’s son, Joseph Ahrens, was at home at the time of the shooting, authorities said. He told Judge Suskauer he agreed with the terms of the plea deal.
“The only thing I want to say is, all through this trial, I didn’t see any remorse,” Ahrens told the court while appearing remotely.
“God be with her,” he added.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit reopened the homicide investigation in 2014. After contacting witnesses and conducting additional DNA analysis, authorities said they established probable cause linking Keen Warren to the murder. A grand jury subsequently issued a true bill for first-degree murder a month before her arrest in September 2017.
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