Bristol Herald Courier
BRISTOL — Nearly 200 pages of evidence — showcasing jailhouse letters and a clown picture — have been released by prosecutors in Florida who seek the death penalty for an Abingdon, Virginia, woman accused of shooting another woman in 1990.
Sheila Keen-Warren, 56, remains in custody at a Belle Glade, Florida, jail awaiting her February 2020 trial, when she faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Marlene Warren, 40.
Authorities said Marlene Warren was gunned down by a person wearing a clown costume on May 26, 1990. The case remained cold until 2017 when DNA evidence led police to arrest Keen-Warren near her home at South Holston Lake.
Keen-Warren had left Florida, married Michael Warren, Marlene’s husband — who has been the recipient of many letters since her arrest, moved to the Tri-Cities and opened the Purple Cow restaurant in Kingsport, Tennessee.
“There is no words to describe how much I love and miss you,” Keen-Warren wrote her husband on May 21. “I feel so empty inside and my whole body aches for you. You are a part of me and I always feel you with me, even though you are so many miles away. I long to be in your arms to share all of these feelings with you.”
In dozens of letters to family and friends, Keen-Warren often speaks of her innocence and looks forward to returning home.
“I just don’t understand why we can’t get this nightmare over with,” she wrote her mother on April 9. “Innocent people shouldn’t be made to sit in jail this long waiting on a trial to prove their innocent. … I continually keep asking how much longer but the attorney gives me no answer.”
In a letter to her Virginia neighbor, she writes, “Just look at what’s happen to me, and it wasn’t because of something I done but they have took me away from everything and everyone I love. I’ve lost a lot of loved ones and I always have said God choose when our time is to leave this earth and it’s his choice alone.”
Keen-Warren’s attorney, Richard Lubin, told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper of Florida he does not believe the letters reveal anything of relevance to the case.
Evidence shows Florida detectives traveled to Tennessee and South Carolina to interview former Purple Cow employees, including one who provided them with a photograph of Keen-Warren dressed as a clown inside the restaurant. The man told investigators that the photo likely was taken around Halloween.
In a South Carolina interview, a man told investigators that when he first started working at the Purple Cow, he saw pictures of Keen-Warren, who went by Debbie Warren at the time, in a clown costume.
“He never actually witnessed Debbie Warren dressed in a clown costume,” Investigator Michael Fincannon wrote in a report for the state attorney’s office.
Another former employee said the Warrens were good people, “but horrible employers.” She added she got a bad vibe from Michael Warren, who investigators say remains a person of interest in the case.
In previously released evidence, Keen-Warren, while intoxicated, allegedly told a Purple Cow employee about the Florida shooting.
“[Keen-Warren] said that she had picked out a clown outfit and killed his wife, she then drove off. She said that Mike was her alibi,” Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Detective Paige McCann wrote in an offense report. “[Keen-Warren] said they moved and wanted to get married but had to wait for the attention on the case to die down.”
Michael Warren, Keen-Warren’s husband, has denied the couple was involved in the shooting. In one of the letters, a family member says Keen-Warren’s ex-husband likely committed the crime.