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Son of killer clown victim 'relieved' following Sheila Keen-Warren's plea deal

'I have this energy now that I should have had a long time ago,' Joe Ahrens says
Joe Ahrens shares his thoughts on the plea deal reached in the killer clown case.
Posted at 5:05 PM, May 05, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The son of the woman killed by the notorious killer clown in Wellington decades ago is speaking for the first time since supporting a plea deal that recently sentenced his mom's killer to prison.

WPTV spoke with Joe Ahrens who said despite wanting the case to go to trial, he's finally feeling peace after 33 years of agony.

For more than three decades, a story shrouded in mystery dominated headlines.

Would we ever know the identity of a gun-toting clown who shot and killed Marlene Warren in 1990 on the doorstep of her Wellington home?

Finally, Ahrens said he has that answer and the conviction he's been yearning for.

His mom's killer was sentenced to 12 years in prison on April 25.

Sheila Keen Warren accepted a plea deal for shooting Marlene Warren — the wife of her lover Michael Warren.

Sheila Keen-Warren speaks to attorney in court during hearing, Oct. 21, 2022
Sheila Keen-Warren speaks to her attorney during a hearing in advance of her murder trial, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach, Fla.

However, Ahrens realizes the deal stripped him of any hopes for a longer sentence or even life in prison if the case went to trial.

"I feel a lot better. I feel relieved, 1,000 pounds lighter," Ahrens said. "I have this energy now that I should have had a long time ago."

Thirty-three years ago he remembers having breakfast with his mom the day of the shooting.

"[It was] just an ordinary morning," he said.

But then someone came to the door.

"The doorbell didn't work, but we did see color and flowers and balloons," Ahrens said.

His mother got up from the table.

"When she opened the door, I remember, 'Oh how pretty, flowers and balloons,' and then I heard a bang," he said. "My whole world changed. That was the worst day of my life."

Ahrens said he couldn't see who was in the clown costume.

"You can't tell," he said. "Can you imagine somebody in a clown? Everything's covered."

Wellington resident Marlene Warren was shot and killed in 1990 by a person dressed as a clown.
Wellington resident Marlene Warren was shot and killed in 1990 by a person dressed as a clown.

He only remembered the killer being unusually calm while returning to their getaway car.

He called 911 and grabbed the keys to his vehicle.

"I drove wildly, crazily, running red lights," Ahrens said. "But we did not catch them."

But he said he suspected Sheila Keen Warren early on and so did investigators.

He also suspected his stepdad was having an affair with her.

"He wasn't coming home, so that said it all," Ahrens said.

If the case went to trial, he planned to tell jurors he remembers Sheila Keen-Warren flirting with Michael Warren at a house party while his mother was there.

"I knew something was going on, but they didn't want to argue in front of me," he said.

If there was a trial, he said he also would have said Sheila Keen-Warren showed up at Marlene's funeral.

She married Michael Warren about a decade later.

But the evidence needed to arrest Keen-Warren for murder wasn't sufficient for 27 years until 2017.

"When the police officers came to my house and said they caught the person that killed my mother, I was so mixed emotions," Ahrens said. "I didn’t know what to do, but I finally got hope."

But hope was hard to keep after six years of waiting for a trial where a conviction wasn’t guaranteed. Old witnesses were hard to find. Some even died including original investigators.

The state attorney said some critical evidence could no longer be authenticated, which is why Ahrens supported a plea deal.

"Me and the state said, 'Yeah, we'll do a plea,' but we wanted more time. But that didn't happen.

"How much time did you want her to spend in prison?" WPTV reporter Meghan McRoberts asked.

"I wanted a minimum of 15 [years], so did the state," Ahrens said.

The state said she only has about two more years to serve of that 12-year sentence.

"I'm still OK. I have to be," Ahrens said. "Anger is no good. It will ruin you."

He said it wasn't the sentence that mattered most but was glad the truth was finally being uncovered.

"When she starts to live her life again, it's not going to be what she thinks," Ahrens said. "She's got a lot of stuff to go through. I saw no remorse and that tells me that she's going to live in hell."