BAKERSFIELD — After a two-day preliminary hearing that brought testimony from her former lover, Sabrina Limon was held to answer to all charges Wednesday related to her alleged involvement in the murder of her husband, Robert Limon.
Before issuing his order, Kern County Superior Court Judge John R. Brownlee spoke to his belief in the evidence against Sabrina Limon, 37.
“Based on the testimony I've heard over the course of two days,” Brownlee said, “I certainly have that (belief).”
Brownlee’s remark elicited laughter in the gallery, and his order resulted in disruptive cheers from an audience that has often pushed the limits of courtroom decorum since Sabrina Limon’s Jan. 10 arraignment.
“Knock it off,” Brownlee said sternly as the attorneys for both sides stared on in dismay.
Details of 38-year-old Robert Limon’s death, as well as Jonathan Hearn’s religious beliefs before and after the murder, were revealed Wednesday.
Hearn told defense attorney Richard Terry he wore a “Halloween mask of an older-appearing visage” and had a brief conversation with Robert Limon before killing him on Aug. 17, 2014, at a BNSF Railway facility in Tehachapi.
Hearn and Terry sparred over linguistics throughout cross examination. When Hearn used the “older-appearing visage” line, Terry simplified it: “The mask made you look like an elderly person.”
Meanwhile, Hearn labored over specifics, repeatedly quantifying responses to ensure his answers were understood within the context of each question. When Terry asked if he was religious before the murder, Hearn took issue with the word.
“Based on the broad definition of the word ‘religious,’ I did attend church with some frequency,” he said, “but it became a personal interest as opposed to a social interest (after the murder).”
For his part, Terry emphasized personal pronouns when asking Hearn questions like, “It was you who did the killing?” and “You bought the arsenic?” to underscore his argument for Sabrina Limon’s innocence.
“Basically there’s nothing that corroborates Ms. Limon’s involvement in this,” Terry later told Brownlee. “All they (the prosecution) have are statements by Mr. Hearn (concerning her alleged involvement).”
Hearn told Kern County Superior Court Deputy District Attorney Eric Smith that he turned to God in earnest to “cope with the murder.”
“In my regrets following the time of killing him, the heaviest burden was that of being responsible for killing him,” Hearn said. “But there was also the desire to not want to suffer the consequences of those things, so I guess it’s two-pronged. I was seeking forgiveness for my actions, but I was also in fear of getting caught.”
Both Hearn and Sabrina Limon were heard in multiple recorded phone conversations praying for guidance, and Hearn admitted he prayed in a breezeway at the BNSF facility before killing Robert Limon.
Hearn shot Robert Limon twice with a .45-caliber Glock equipped with a silencer he constructed out of a Maglite flashlight and “engine freeze plugs” used as baffles. The second shot came after Hearn exited a BNSF office — that he made to look as if it had been robbed — and heard Robert Limon “making some type of noise.”
According to Hearn, he and Sabrina let several months pass after abandoning a poisoned-pudding plot before making the successful attempt on Robert Limon’s life.
In the interim, Hearn said he purchased a “burner” phone for Sabrina Limon so their communications could not be tracked if an investigation were opened.
From Nov. 19, 2014, to Jan. 3, 2017, Hearn said he never spoke with investigators, but agreed to meet with Kern County Sheriff’s Office Detective Robert Meyer on four occasions last month after learning Sabrina Limon had started seeing another man.
Those interviews resulted in new evidence and the plea deal that stipulated his testimony and an apology to Robert Limon’s family in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence.
The prosecution is pursuing charges against Sabrina Limon under the “theory of aiding and abetting,” according to Smith.
He described the more than $300,000 in life insurance mentioned Tuesday as the “financial aspect” behind her wanting Robert Limon dead and said she instigated Hearn to kill her husband.
“It is quite obvious Hearn was an accomplice of Sabrina Limon,” Smith said. “There’s sufficient evidence of this corroboration ... Part of any murder is the plan to get away with it. The wiretaps (of phone conversations) show this conspiracy (to get away with it).”
Smith also said words between Hearn and Sabrina Limon used during phone conversations were carefully chosen. “Affair” was used in place of “murder,” according to Smith, who added that “the affair equates to a murder.”
While testifying, Hearn noted that the calculated language extended beyond simply exchanging one word for another.
“Our entire dialogue was to avoid the topic of the murder,” he said.
A status hearing was previously scheduled for April 4 to determine Hearn’s sentencing date.
Sabrina Limon faces six felony counts, including murder, attempted murder and poisoning. She is due back in court Feb. 21.
Matthew Cabe can be reached at MCabe@VVDailyPress.com or at 760-951-6254. Follow him on Twitter @DP_MatthewCabe.