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Crime News Snapped

Florida Mom Murdered on Her Own Doorstep by Jealous Clown: "Act of a Sociopath"

After shooting Marlene Warren, Sheila Keen Warren assumed a new identity to evade capture and live with Marlene's husband.

By Grace Jidoun

The Wellington mansion in the private aeronautical housing community known as Aero Club was quiet that morning in May 1990. Marlene Warren was in the living room with her 21-year-old son, Joe Ahrens, and his friend, who had spent the night, when a white Chevy LeBaron unexpectedly rolled into their circular driveway. Out stepped a person in full clown costume, toting a basket of flowers and a red heart-shaped balloon that said, “You’re the Greatest.”

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Just recently, Joe had broken his leg and they all thought it was a jokey get-well gift, so Marlene answered the door.

“I hear, ‘How pretty, how nice,’ and then we heard ‘BANG!’” remembered Joe on Snapped Season 33, Episode 19.

The clown pulled out a gun and shot Marlene in the face once, and then returned to the car, glancing back at Joe.

“The [clown] face looked like a mask because it was so smooth. It looked like a china doll,” he said about the bizarre culprit.

Without the orange wig, he estimated the person was 5’9” with big hands and assumed it was a man. Instead of floppy clown shoes, Joe noticed the person wore combat boots.

Completely confused about what had just happened, Joe said, “It just didn’t register until I saw my mother’s teeth gone and her gasping for air.” He called 911 and hopped in a car to chase after the white Chevy LeBaron, but he couldn’t catch up.

Marlene was rushed to West Palm Beach Hospital for emergency surgery but never regained consciousness, and the family made the difficult decision to take her off life support. She was 40 years old.

“Forensically, there wasn’t much left at the scene in terms of fingerprints or DNA,” stated Aleathea McRoberts, assistant prosecutor.  Nothing was stolen, an important detail that ruled out a robbery.

Prosecutor Dave Aronberg added, “This was an out-of-the-way community; you had to know where you were going, you had to have a purpose. That led police to think that this was something personal.”

Marlene and Michael Warren’s Marriage

The Palm Beach County Sherriff’s office issued an alert for the LeBaron and turned their attention to the family, questioning Joe first and then Marlene’s husband, Michael Warren.

Described on Snapped as a “Midwestern girl” who grew up on her grandfather’s farm, Marlene was a single mom of two boys when she met Michael. He was 18, and she was 20. The two fell madly in love, married a few years later, and Michael cared for the boys like they were his own.

Sheila Keen Warren.

The couple ultimately moved to Florida, where Michael opened a car lot that became hugely successful. They eventually branched into investment real estate and were living the good life.

“We had a single-engine airplane, we had the jacuzzi, and hangar, and two-car garage,” recalled Joe fondly.

Then tragedy struck in 1988: Joe’s brother, John Ahrens, died in a car accident.

“My mom was trying to pull it all together, but Mike, instead of getting closer, got further apart. His business absorbed him,” said Joe.

On the morning of his wife’s murder, Michael was on his way to the horse track with friends.

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When asked by police if Marlene had any enemies, he floated a questionable theory. In audio played on Snapped, he noted that Marlene collected rent for some of their properties.

“She’s always doing evictions. Shoot, I, you know. I guess she always developed enemies,” he said.

Marlene’s son Joe had previously painted a very different picture of an empathetic woman who was understanding when tenants were in arrears.

But Michael’s dealership, A Bargain Motors, was already under investigation by police for shady business dealings. He was known to place misleading ads that intentionally confused his lot with a more established brand. Michael was also suspected of rolling back odometers on cars to fetch a higher sales price.

Michael’s employees point police to Sheila Keen

Car lot employees revealed to police that Michael was having a brazen long-term affair with a young co-worker named Sheila Keen.

“It was no secret that he was a player. They’d leave the doors right open. There was no hiding it,” remarked former employee Don Carter on Snapped.

The workers described her as a tomboy, saying she would dress in a “manly fashion” — and often wore combat boots.

Sheila “was pretty, tall, long shiny brown hair,” said Schutz, an editor with South Florida Sun Sentinel. “She was also really tough.”

Sheila’s then-husband, Spud, was a “repo man,” and she helped him repossess cars, which is how she first met Michael. She soon fell in love with him and divorced Spud.

“Sheila’s behavior started escalating in terms of her possessiveness of Michael,” noted McRoberts, but car lot employees believed he was just in it for the sex.

Both Michael and Sheila adamantly denied the affairs in separate interviews with police. When asked point-blank if she ever owned a clown suit, Sheila said no.

There wasn’t enough for an arrest, but Sheila did allow police to take a sample of her hair, a decision that would prove to be her undoing decades later.

With the case stalled for the moment, police scrutinized the items left behind at the scene. They traced the flower basket and balloons back to a nearby Publix within days. Next up, they located a clown shop in West Palm Beach that sold a clown costume to a woman a few days before the murder. Employees stated she bought everything — the wig, the red nose, the suit — except for the clown shoes. Two employees ID’d a photo of Sheila as the customer.

Then, the LeBaron turned up in an abandoned parking lot connected to Michael’s car lot business, providing a direct link between the car and Sheila’s workplace. Police found fibers from the clown wig and human hair in the car, but in 1990, forensic DNA testing was not yet available. Without hard evidence, their hands were tied.

Michael Warren gets busted for fraud

Four months after Marlene’s murder, police raided Michael’s car lot, which turned up enough evidence to put him in prison for racketeering and odometer fraud for eight years. After his release in 1997, he talked to his son Joe just once and then “left me like a bag of trash,” Joe told Snapped.

Michael wanted a fresh start and moved to Virginia with a new wife. She was blonde and her name was Debbie. But police later discovered that his new wife was actually his old affair partner, Sheila Keen Warren, and she had been living under the alias for 17 years.

How Sheila Keen Warren Was Arrested

It wasn’t until 2014 that the police were able to take a fresh look at the murder thanks to a grant for cold case investigations. By this time, DNA forensics were an integral part of crime scene investigations, and police had found a strand of hair on the balloon that had been initially overlooked. The hair from the balloon and the sample Sheila provided long ago were sent off to the FBI lab for testing. They were a match.

“I believe Sheila Keen murdered Marlene Warren because she wanted Marlene Warren’s life. This is the act of a sociopath,” Aronberg told Snapped.

Sheila was arrested in Virginia for first-degree murder on September 26, 2017, 27 years after Marlene Warren's death. She was extradited back to Florida, and the trial stalled for five years. COVID-era restrictions had slowed the process considerably.

In 2023, she was offered a “sweetheart” plea deal: in exchange for pleading guilty to second-degree murder, she was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Michael was never charged in connection with Marlene's murder.

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