Washington County VA

UPDATE: Death penalty could be on the table for Florida's 'killer clown' suspect

The woman accused of dressing up like a clown and shooting the wife of the man she'd later marry could face the death penalty.

State Attorney Dave Aronberg says the decision whether to go after a lethal injection for Sheila Keen Warren, indicted for first degree murder for the killing of Marlene Warren in 1990, will be made once she's back in Palm Beach County, according to a report from our sister station WPEC.

Keen, 54, is in jail in Washington County, Virginia, awaiting extradition.

Deputies arrested her on Tuesday after a grand jury issued a true bill for the murder charge.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office held a news conference Thursday to say advances in technology led to the unmasking of the so-called 'killer clown' in a murder that's been unsolved for 27 years.

The murder happened Saturday, May 26, 1990. Marlene Warren answered the door and found a clown dressed in a red wig, red bulb nose and white gloves standing in the doorway of her home on Takeoff Place in the Aero Club subdivision in Wellington. Her son was also there with some of his friends.

Authorities said the clown pulled up in a white Chrysler LeBaron and was carrying a bouquet of flowers and two balloons that had been purchased on the same day of the killing at a Publix store about a mile away from the suspect's apartment. One of the balloons read, "You're the Greatest." The second balloon was a Snow White balloon.

As Warren reached out to grab the balloons from the clown, she said, "how nice." Investigators then said the clown pulled out a gun and shot Warren in the face. She died at the hospital two days later, the sheriff's office said.

PBSO detective Paige McCann said the clown killer calmly walked back to the car and drove away, a non-chalant attitude that investigators believe the suspect repeated once deputies had her in handcuffs decades later.

Neighbor Bill Kramer remembers hearing the gunshots.

“The sound, originally in my mind, thought it was a nail gun,” said Kramer. “I looked up and I heard some commotion in my house. My wife came out of the back of the house, and someone asked her to call 911, that somebody had been shot,” said Kramer.

Investigators said suspect Sheila Keen Warren, despite the rumors, denied being in a relationship with Michael Warren at the time of the killing.

The two would ultimately get married 12 years later and live in Tennessee and Virginia where they opened the Purple Cow restaurant in Kingsport.

The sheriff's office compared the investigation to a puzzle. Detectives said they had a lot of pieces in 1990.

Authorities looked at Sheila Keen Warren as a suspect back then, along with Marlene Warren's husband, but the state attorney at the time did not want to pursue charges at the time.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said it's important to get the right person.

"There's one thing to think somebody did something, there's another thing to know that they did it and prove it in court," said Bradshaw. "We want to make sure we got the right person."

The cold case unit at the sheriff's office took another look at the case in 2014, thanks to new grant money. Detectives re-interviewed old witnesses and processed new evidence.

Investigators said they interviewed Michael Warren on Wednesday but stopped short of saying whether he's a person of interest.

"The investigation is ongoing," McCann said.

Warren's parents told CBS12 by phone they see hope for justice.

"I am definitely relieved,” said Shirley Twing, the woman's mother. "Kind of upsetting, okay, but justice will end it all here (now), and that's all that really counts."

THE CHRYSLER LEBARON

The sheriff's office talked about the Chrysler LeBaron used in the crime. It's a rental car.

Det. McCann said the people who rented the car mistakenly called Michael Warren's business to return the car early.

According to the sheriff's office, someone at Warren's business, Bargain Motors, told the renters to leave the car and keys there.

Investigators said Sheila Keen Warren, Michael Warren and a third unnamed individual picked up the car.

Sheila Warren used to repossess cars for Michael Warren, according to our partners at the Sun-Sentinel.


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