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Sheila Keen-Warren: Florida's 'killer clown' pleads guilty to murder, may walk free in 10 months

Sheila Keen-Warren pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after killing her love rival, Marlene Warren, in 1990
UPDATED APR 26, 2023
Sheila Keen-Warren has pleaded guilty to murdering Marlene Warren in 1990 while posing as a clown (Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office)
Sheila Keen-Warren has pleaded guilty to murdering Marlene Warren in 1990 while posing as a clown (Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office)

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Florida's "killer clown" has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after killing her love rival in 1990. However, she could walk free in just 10 months. Sheila Keen-Warren admitted to murdering Marlene Warren outside her Wellington home after donning a clown costume and makeup, before being married to the latter's husband, Michael, in Las Vegas in 2002.

Keen-Warren, 60, who had maintained her innocence of the May 26 murder for 33 years, altered her plea two weeks prior to the start of her trial. She received a 12-year prison term, with credit for the five-and-a-half years she spent behind bars since her arrest. Her lawyer, though, claimed she could be released early in 2024 due to good behavior, with time deducted from her sentence for each month she stays in prison without incident.


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Who is Sheila Keen-Warren?

Keen-Warren was charged with murdering Marlene in 1990 while posing as a clown. She was the main suspect in the murder because it was alleged that she was having an affair with Michael, which she denied despite getting married to him 12 years later. Keen-Warren, who was holding two balloons, shot Marlene in the face on the front step of her house, According to reports, one balloon had a picture of Snow White on it, while the other had the words "You're the Greatest!" written across it.

Keen-Warren, who had long been suspected of being the shooter has been imprisoned while awaiting trial for first-degree murder since 2017 when Palm Beach County Sheriff's investigators said developments in DNA technology revealed that a hair recovered in the clown's getaway car came from her, as per CBS

Why will Sheila Keen-Warren walk free?

Greg Rosenfeld, the defense attorney, pointed out that although the law currently in effect mandated that inmates completed at least 85% of their sentences before gain time accrues, Keen-Warren was exempt due to the sentencing guidelines in effect in 1990, the year the crime was committed. He added that even though Keen-Warren had admitted guilt, she still maintained that she did not fire the shot, adding that the "gamble just isn't worth it."

Rosenfeld reportedly stated, "This is an incredibly difficult decision to make, just having to plea to a crime you didn't commit. The gamble's just not worth it. When you're looking at going home in 10 months versus the risk of what could happen at trial, you never know. It's a huge win for our client."

Gain time and Florida laws

Gain time was first used in 1889 and is an opportunity for an offender to reduce (if qualified) the overall sentence. Inmates serving life sentences or certain minimum mandatory terms are ineligible for gain time during the period that these required sentences are in effect. It is given to prisoners on a monthly basis as they earn it for adjusting to the institution, employment and program participation.

For any offense committed before January 1979 or after June 1983 but before January 1994, the maximum monthly sentence for an offender is 20 days. Those who committed their crime(s) on or after January 1, 1994, are eligible to receive up to 25 days of bonus "gain time" per month. If the offense was committed on or after January 1, 1994, the person convicted is entitled to up to 20 days of incentive gain-time each month. However, 85% of any sentence is what must be served in prison for offenses committed after October 1995, as per the Daily Mail.

'We're thrilled with the resolution'

According to State Attorney Dave Aronberg, Keen-Warren will likely spend at least two years in jail. Both sentences are quite different from the punishment she previously received.

"We're thrilled with the resolution," Rosenfeld stated outside the courtroom, adding, "We're beyond that." He termed the plea agreement a "huge win" and a significant departure from the death sentence, which the State Attorney's Office had previously stated it would seek if the jury convicted Keen-Warren of first-degree murder. Even though the possibility of a death sentence was eliminated, she faces life in prison if she contests the charge during a trial and fails, as per The Palm Beach Post.