There were new developments Friday in one of the area’s most talked-about murders, the decades-old Wellington killer clown case.
Prosecutors now say suspect Sheila Keen-Warren has moved assets around in order to get taxpayers to pay her legal costs.
Deputies brought Keen-Warren to court Friday for a status hearing in her case.
Both sides agreed to a trial delay and to put it off for two weeks, discussing a controversial filing by prosecutors alleging Keen-Warren “knowingly and intentionally falsified her criminal indigent status application” by failing to report assets.
Keen-Warren has hired private attorneys and is paying their fees, mostly. It’s the lawyers’ costs of preparing for trial that taxpayers are currently picking up for Keen-Warren, and prosecutors are now objecting.
“There’s more to it than is contained in the motion,” said Richard Lubin, Keen-Warren’s attorney, after the hearing. “That’s why we wanted to spend an extra two weeks dealing with the records and finances.”
In 1990, a mother named Marlene Warren answered the front door of her Wellington home, only to be killed by someone dressed as a clown, holding flowers.
Two years ago, detectives said they finally had enough evidence to charge Keen-Warren, who later married the victim’s husband and moved to Virginia.
Prosecutors, in a document filed recently, say after Keen-Warren’s arrest, nearly $300,000 was transferred to “accounts held solely by Michael Warren,” her husband.
The State Attorney’s Office claims “she also has transferred title of their residence in Virginia to him.” The lakefront home, according to the filing, is currently valued at over a half million.
In our legal system, people with no assets are entitled to legal representation, usually by public defenders' offices.
But sometimes, defendants hire their own private attorneys, then have no money left to pay lawyers’ costs of preparing for trial.
In these situations, the State, with court approval, will pick up the tab for costs. Keen-Warren won such an approval.
Gregg Lerman, a veteran criminal defense attorney based in West Palm Beach, said it happens frequently.
“Investigations, serving subpoenas, getting deposition taken, if there are videos, photographs, anything related to cost of preparation,” he said.
Lerman said in a death penalty case like Keen-Warren’s, these costs could easily reach tens of thousands of dollars.
Her trial had been scheduled for the end of January, but Judge Joseph Marx cancelled that date and set another hearing for Nov. 22 to address both scheduling the trial and Keen-Warren’s status as indigent for costs.