By Mitchell McCluskey and Chris Boyette, CNN
Three decades after a Florida woman was fatally shot by a person dressed as a clown, the suspect of a lifetime — who later married the victim’s widower — has pleaded guilty although her lawyers maintain she is innocent.
Sheila Keen-Warren, 59, withdrew her earlier plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty Tuesday as part of a plea deal with prosecutors just weeks before the case was set to go to trial.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the May 1990 murder of Marlene Warren, who was shot to death at her home near West Palm Beach, Florida, while her son and friends ate breakfast inside.
On the morning of the murder, Warren answered the door to find someone dressed as a clown and holding two balloons and a flower arrangement. The costumed person handed Warren the gifts and then pulled out a gun and shot him in the face, authorities said.
Warren died at a hospital two days later.
Twenty-seven years after the murder, Keen-Warren, who had since married Marlene Warren’s widowed husband, was arrested and charged with the crime in 2017.
As part of her plea agreement, Warren will be sentenced to 12 years in prison, with credit for the time she has been serving since her arrest.
The victim’s son approved the terms of the guilty plea, prosecutor Reid Scott said in court.
“After years of professing her innocence, Sheila Keen Warren was finally forced to admit that she was the one who dressed as a clown and took the life of an innocent victim,” Palm Beach County State’s Attorney Dave Aronberg said. it’s a statement.
However, Keen-Warren’s attorney told CNN that she maintains her innocence but is happy with the terms of the plea.
“This woman should never have been arrested or prosecuted,” her attorney Greg Rosenfeld said. “She was looking forward to her day in court.”
Ultimately, Rosenfeld said, the plea deal was the best option available to Keen-Warren. “You never know what could happen in a trial,” he said.
Had the case gone to trial, Scott said in part in court, the evidence presented by prosecutors “would lead a jury to convict her of the crime.”
Asked by the judge if he agreed with the prosecutor’s statements, Keen-Warren replied: “Yes, sir.”
Keen-Warren married the victim’s husband
When detectives were first investigating the case, they heard rumors that the victim’s husband, Michael Warren, was having an affair with Sheila Keen, but the couple denied being in a relationship at the time, authorities said in 2017.
Twelve years after the murder of his late wife, Michael Warren married Sheila Keen, now Keen-Warren, authorities said.
Although Keen-Warren had long been a suspect in the case, the evidence available in 1990 was not strong enough to secure a conviction, investigators said at the time of her arrest.
A major break did not occur until 2014, when the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office cold case unit reopened the investigation and was able to use advances in DNA technology to strengthen its evidence, the office said.
The CNN Wire
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CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe, Faith Karimi, Ralph Ellis and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.