After 27 years, a woman is in custody for allegedly killing the wife of her current husband while masquerading as a clown, police in Florida say.
Sheila Keen Warren, 54, who had previously been named as a suspect in the 1990 fatal shooting of Marlene Warren, was arrested at her Virginia home on Tuesday for first-degree murder, Palm Beach County authorities announced. In a court appearance on Wednesday in Virginia, she waived extradition to Florida, according to The Sun Sentinel.
The arrest comes three years after the cold case was reopened using new DNA analysis. It also follows Sheila marrying Marlene’s husband, Michael Warren, in 2002, police said.
“I didn’t think that it would ever happen,” Marlene’s mother, Shirley Twing, 87, told the Sun Sentinel after learning of the arrest.
“It feels good ... but it’s taking me back to the memory of it and it’s kind of hard,” Twing said from her Las Vegas home. “I feel like crying now, but I’m glad it’s over.”
According to police, Marlene Warren, 40, was shot in her face at her Palm Beach County home’s front door by someone in a clown outfit ― complete with an orange wig, red bulb nose and white facial makeup ― on the morning of May 26, 1990.
The clown first handed her flowers and balloons, and then shot her. The killer took off in a white convertible, but not before the victim’s son, Joseph Aherns, who was then in his early 20s, caught a glimpse of the suspect’s brown eyes.
Aherns, reached by West Palm Beach station WPBF on Wednesday, expressed relief upon hearing news of Sheila’s arrest.
“It was a big shock. I was really happy. ... Happier than I’ve been in many years,” he told the station. He also shared his belief that Michael Warren will be arrested in connection with the case, as well.
Authorities have not said if Marlene’s widower, who police on Tuesday said owns a restaurant in Tennessee with Sheila, is suspected of having played a role in the murder. At the time of his wife’s shooting death, Michael Warren was driving to a casino in Miami, the Palm Beach Post reported.
According to the Post, Michael and Sheila had been suspected by friends and family of having an affair before Marlene’s murder, which they denied to investigators.
Marlene’s father, Bill Twing, told the Post in a 2000 interview that his daughter suspected her husband was having an affair and had wanted to leave him. But their real estate properties and used car business, which were worth more than $1 million, were in her name, making a breakup complicated.
“They were having problems,” he told the paper. “If she would’ve left him, it would’ve cost him dearly.”
Shirley Twing, also speaking to the Post at the time, recalled Marlene once telling her: “If anything happens to me, Mike done it.”
Authorities reportedly found a number of reasons to suspect Sheila in the killing, but until recently had not found enough evidence to file charges.
The balloons that had been handed to Marlene were traced back to a Publix supermarket near the apartment where Sheila lived ― an apartment where neighbors said they frequently saw Michael Warren. A Publix store’s clerk described a woman with long brown hair, similar to Sheila’s, having purchased the balloons less than an hour before the shooting.
Employees at a costume store also tentatively identified Sheila as the woman who purchased clown paraphernalia two days before the murder.
The white convertible driven by the clown, which was later found abandoned, was eventually linked to the car dealership Michael and Marlene operated. A search of the vehicle by detectives recovered orange fibers, possibly belonging to the clown wig. Orange fibers were also found inside Sheila’s apartment, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Authorities have not yet disclosed the new evidence that finally led to Shelia’s arrest.