STUART, Fla. — In his first interview since his mother's alleged killer was arrested, Joe Ahrens described the frustrating wait to see justice for his mother, Marlene Warren.
"I was so shut down inside," Ahrens said from his Stuart home. "I wouldn't talk. I couldn't talk. But now I am ready."
This month, a judge delayed the trial for Sheila Keen-Warren for the sixth time since her 2017 arrest.
"So aggravating," Ahrens said.
Sheila Keen-Warren was arrested 27 years after she was accused of dressing up as a clown and shooting her rumored lover's wife in the face.
Ahrens' final day with his mother was almost exactly 32 years ago.
"My mom was an angel," Ahrens recalled. "We were best friends."
Even decades after her death, he has a crisp memory of her kindness.
"I look at myself and still see her in me, the eyes, the smile," Ahrens said.
Ahrens said he, his mother, and some of his friends were at their Aero Club home in Wellington on the morning of May 26, 1990.
"It was just a regular morning," he said. "We were planning the day and eating breakfast."
Then there was a knock on the door.
"We were pretty much all together right at the door, and [Warren] answered it," Ahrens said.
Warren was met with a person dressed in a clown costume, holding balloons and a basket of flowers. Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office investigators said the clown pulled out a gun, shot Warren in the face and then walked calmly to her car. Warren died two days later.
"I was at a loss," Ahrens said. "I just felt my heart and soul just get ripped out of my body."
Warren's husband came into the picture when Ahrens was 6 years old. Through the years, Ahrens said, he lost both his biological father and his brother, making his relationship with his mother that much more important.
After his mother's death, Michael Warren did not remain in his life, Ahrens said. Ahrens left town and moved to Las Vegas and Iowa before returning to Florida only a few years ago.
He was 20 years old when his mother died, losing her at a pivotal age. He had dreams of being a pilot and going to college. The grief and anger surrounding the loss of his mother drove him to substance abuse, Ahrens said.
"I did not know what was up or down," Ahrens said. "I was holding on to the anger and animosity, and it was just ruthless."
Over the decades, he worked to accept he might never know who killed his mother.
"One of the detectives ... told me, 'We're going to find out who did this, no matter what, even if it takes 25 years,'" Ahrens said.
Instead, hope came after 27 years with the arrest of Sheila Keen-Warren.
Keen-Warren was rumored to be in a secret relationship with Michael Warren at the time of Marlene Warren's death. Just more than a decade later, Michael Warren and Keen-Warren were married and lived together in Virginia.
"She took my life out of selfishness and greed," Ahrens said.
Keen-Warren was arrested after investigators said modern DNA technology made her the primary suspect.
Her trial was set to begin this week, but her attorneys asked for more time to gather witnesses and review more evidence.
"They need to do something soon so I can go on with my life," Ahrens said. "I want the truth and an end to this tragic thing."
His attorney, Lance Richards, said the trial could be in four months or pushed into next year.
Ahrens is hopeful to see a conviction this year — something he's dreamed of for decades.
Now, Ahrens said, he finds purpose in working with people also struggling with substance abuse. He also said if he could talk to Keen-Warren, he would tell her there is still help for her.
"If she asks God for help, she might get it," he said.