WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida judge reluctantly delayed the trial of a woman accused of dressing like a clown and fatally shooting her lover's wife more than 30 years ago after defense attorneys said they're having a hard time contacting witnesses.
The trial for Sheila Keen-Warren was supposed to begin June 3. But on Tuesday Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer agreed to what could be a four-month delay, the Palm Beach Post reported.
Suskauer said he already cleared his schedule, delaying other trials and hearings to be able to preside over a three-week trial.
"Think about the impact it has on me. I have a duty to the public," Suskauer told the lawyers. "You also have a victim's family that has waited a long time for justice."
This is the sixth time the trial has been delayed.
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It was May 1990 when Marlene Warren opened her door and was shot in the face by a clown delivering carnations and balloons to her home in Wellington, a suburb of West Palm Beach, court records show.
The former Sheila Keen, rumored to be having an affair with Marlene Warren's husband, Michael Warren, was considered a suspect, but the case against her seemed thin. Two nights before the killing, a woman showed up at a costume store telling clerks she urgently needed a clown suit, an orange wig, white gloves, a red nose and enough white makeup to cover her face completely. One of the clerks identified her in a photo lineup, but the other clerk wasn't sure.
She later married Michael Warren and they were living in Virginia when investigators said DNA provided the evidence they needed to arrest her in 2017.
Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott agreed the latest delay was unavoidable.
"I want this defendant to be fully prepared for trial," Scott said. "I don't want to deal with appellate issues."
The defense team — Richard Lubin, Greg Rosenfeld and Amy Morse — blamed Scott, writing that he didn't provide them with names and addresses of key witnesses who are now scattered across the country.
The defense team also said they need to view evidence, including hair fibers, two balloons, a Publix bag and car rental papers, that was not in an evidence locker at the sheriff's office. Those items had been sent to forensics for further review, they said.
"Customarily, a criminal prosecution is straightforward: The police investigate a crime, the police arrest a suspect, and the state prosecutes the suspect," but this case hasn't been handled that way, they wrote.
"Following the arrest, the police and state continued their investigation," they wrote. "This backwards prosecution has hampered Ms. Keen-Warren's ability to prepare for trial."
Because so much time has passed since the killing, sworn depositions have been taken from some witnesses who either can't or won't appear.
"This is a very difficult situation," Lubin told the newspaper. "This is a long-ago event. Witnesses are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Some of them are dead. Others are debilitated."