WEST PALM BEACH — Florida prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a woman accused of dressing up like a clown in 1990 and fatally shooting the wife of a man she later married.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg issued a statement Wednesday saying the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for 54-year-old Sheila Keen Warren, who was ordered held without bail at a Wednesday court hearing. She was extradited Tuesday from Abingdon, Va., where she lived with her husband Michael Warren for years.
Defense attorney Richard Lubin told reporters Sheila Warren "vehemently denies" killing Marleen Warren and will plead not guilty. She was arrested last week after a grand jury issued a first-degree murder indictment. Investigators say new DNA testing gave them what they needed to make an arrest.
Michael Warren, 65, has not been charged, but detectives and prosecutors have refused to rule him out as a suspect. He has not responded to phone messages left at his home. He and Sheila Warren married in 2002.
Marlene Warren was killed in May 1990 by person dressed as a clown who handed her carnations and two foil balloons. Her son, who witnessed the killing, said she replied, "How pretty!" The clown then pulled a handgun, shot her in the face and drove away. Marlene Warren died two days later.
Detectives publicly identified Sheila Keen, who worked for Michael Warren, as their primary suspect shortly after the killing but say they lacked sufficient evidence to assure conviction without the DNA test.
Witnesses told investigators in 1990 that Keen and Michael Warren were having an affair, though both denied it. Costume shop employees identified Keen as the woman who had bought a clown costume a few days earlier.
And one of the two balloons — a silver one that read, "You're the Greatest" — was sold at only one store, a Publix supermarket near her home. Employees told detectives a woman who looked like Keen had bought the balloons an hour before the shooting.
The presumed getaway car was found abandoned with orange, hair-like fibers inside. The white Chrysler convertible had been reported stolen from Michael Warren's car lot a month before the shooting. Sheila Warren and her then-husband repossessed cars for him.
Relatives told the Palm Beach Post in 2000 that Marlene Warren, who was 40 when she died, suspected her husband was having an affair and wanted to leave him. But the car lot and other properties were in her name, and she feared what might happen if she did.
She allegedly told her mother, "If anything happens to me, Mike done it."
Michael and Sheila Warren recently sold a popular restaurant in Kingsport, Tenn.