On May 26, 1990, a clown carrying flowers and two balloons showed up on the door step of Marlene Warren’s West Palm Beach home and fatally shot her in the face. It’s taken 27 years, but a suspect in the bizarre case has finally been arrested.
Florida is known for crimes so outlandish they wouldn’t make believable B-horror flicks, but this one in particular is truly out there. Sheila Keen Warren—who married Marlene’s husband 12 years after her death—was arrested on Tuesday nearly three decades after she allegedly donned an orange wig and murdered her rival on the steps of her own home.
“Any murder’s horrific. It doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing a clown costume or not,” Palm Beach County sheriff’s Sgt. Richard McAfee said at a news conference.
“Taking another person’s life is a horrific incident. It just took us 27 years to bring closure to the victim’s family. Murder cases never go away.”
According to NBC News, Warren has been a suspect in the case since the beginning, though new technology has finally allowed prosecutors to retest DNA evidence previously insufficient to charge her. Warren was arrested in Washington County on a charge of first degree murder with use of a firearm.
The details of the story are every bit as alarming now as they was in 1990. Per an account from the Palm Beach Post:
On May 26, 1990, a person dressed in an orange wig with white face paint parked a white Chrysler convertible in Marlene Warren’s driveway at 14570 Takeoff Place in Wellington. She answered the door, walking past her 21-year-old son, Joseph Aherns, and his friends. The clown handed her red and white carnations and foil balloons.
“Oh, how pretty,” her son remembered her saying. Aherns spoke with The Palm Beach Post in 2000.
Without saying a word, the clown pulled out a gun and shot Marlene Warren in the face. Aherns, who was in cast at the time from a car crash, said he made his way to his mother and yelled at the clown, prompting the shooter to turn around. Aherns didn’t remember what he said, but he remembered the clown’s brown eyes. After calling 911, he got his keys, got into a car and tried to find the Chrysler convertible to no avail. His stepfather, Michael Warren, was on Interstate 95 heading to a casino in Miami.
Authorities initially suspected Michael Warren, the victim’s husband, who in the course of the investigation was arrested on various charges related to his car rental agency, including odometer tampering, grand theft, and racketeering—a side story that adds an extra soupçon of “what the FUCK” to an already bananas tale. From NBC:
Michael Warren served three years in prison, and, in 1997, he vanished. But he re-emerged in 2002, marrying Sheila Keen — the same Sheila Keen Warren who’s now charged with his ex-wife’s murder. Sheila had worked for Michael repossessing cars.
Police have not revealed whether he was involved in his former wife’s death, although detectives did connect the Chrysler to Warren’s car business, inside finding orange fibers—similar to those found on an orange clown wig—and brown hair.
Real clowns can’t catch a break.