Florida authorities said a Virginia woman arrested Tuesday in connection to a decades-old cold case dubbed the "Clown Murder" could face the death penalty.
Sheila Keen Warren, 54, has been indicted on a first-degree murder with a firearm charge in the May 26, 1990 killing of Marlene Warren, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said at a news conference Thursday.
Warren was arrested Tuesday in Washington County, Va., where she had been living with husband Michael Warren, who at the time of the shooting was married to Marlene Warren. Authorities said the couple married in 2002.
Warren could face life in prison or, potentially, the death penalty, Aronberg said, but noted that he won't make an announcement on whether the death penalty will be sought until Warren is extradited to Palm Beach County.
Detectives say on a May morning in 1990, Marlene Warren was at her Wellington home with her son and several of his friends when the doorbell rang, authorities said. Warren answered her front door to find a clown in an orange wig, red nose and white face paint, handing her carnations and foil balloons.
"How nice," she said.
The clown then pulled out a gun and shot her in the face, detectives said. Witnesses recalled hearing a gunshot and seeing Warren fall to the ground as the clown "calmly" walked back to a waiting car and drove away.
Marlene Warren was taken to a nearby hospital where she died two days later.
Authorities said the case was reopened in 2014. Detectives said advances in DNA technology, combined with evidence gathered decades ago, show Sheila Keen Warren was the killer.
At the time of the shooting, Sheila Keen was an employee of Marlene Warren's husband at his used car lot. The Sun Sentinel reports the two often took long lunches together. After she separated from her first husband Richard Keen in January 1990, Michael Warren reportedly paid her rent, according to the paper.
It had been rumored she was having an affair with Michael Warren but both denied being involved in a relationship, authorities said.
"This was a tenacious effort on the part of the cold case detectives and the people from the state attorney's office and the FBI," sheriff Ric Bradshaw said at Thursday's news conference.
Over the years, detectives say, employees at a local costume shop identified Sheila Warren as the woman who had bought a clown costume a few days earlier.
And one of the two balloons — a silver one that read, "You're the Greatest" — was sold at a Publix supermarket near Marlene Warren's home. Employees told detectives a woman who looked like Warren had bought the balloons an hour before the shooting.
Detectives said new examination of DNA collected in 1990 helped establish enough evidence to make the arrest. They did not give any details on the genetic material or where it was found.
"Technological advances helped crack this case and hopefully will bring justice to the family of Marlene Warren," Aronberg said.
Sheila Warren has waived extradition and is expected to be transfered to Palm Beach County. Attorney information wasn't immediately available.
Michael Warren, 65, has not been charged, but detectives said they have not ruled him out as a suspect and said he was interviewed again Wednesday.
"We don't know if there will be anyone else charged in this, that remains to be seen," Bradshaw said.