Kern County's biggest murder case of last year is now a full-length true crime book.
Sparked by a murder at a Tehachapi railway station, the Sabrina Limon trial included testimonies involving swinging couples, Costco samples and allegations of poisoned pudding — and now you can read all the details in the latest true crime book from New York Times bestselling author Michael Fleeman.
Limon was convicted in October of first-degree murder in her husband's death. Her lover, former Redlands firefighter Jonathan Hearn, testified he and Limon planned her husband's death before he shot her husband to death in 2014.
"Better Off Dead" tells the story of "a frustrated, unhappy wife. Her much younger, attentive lover. A husband who degrades and ignores her," according to the book's website.
All that sets the stage for a love-triangle murder "that shatters family illusions and lays bare a quiet family community’s secret world of sex, sin and swinging," the book's teaser concluded.
On Wednesday, Fleeman, who lives in Los Angeles, told The Californian he first became interested in the case after hearing about it on the local news. After the allegations of a love triangle became public, he realized it was more than a run-of-the-mill crime story and that there were personal dynamics that made for an interesting tale.
Fleeman, who attended most of the trial, said the most surprising moment for him was when Limon took the stand.
"It's very unusual for a defendant to testify on her own behalf, for good reasons," he said. "That was a move that carried a lot of risk and could really backfire."
Until that point, Fleeman believed it was a very close case. But he said he thinks her testimony hurt her.
Nevertheless, the lengthy wiretapped phone calls between Hearn and Limon, more than anything else, made the case for the prosecution, Fleeman said. The recordings allowed the jury to hear two alleged murder conspirators speaking in "such intimate, unguarded tones."
"We could hear how these people sounded — not just what they said — and how they reacted to certain things," Fleeman said.
In writing the book, Fleeman read through a mountain of law enforcement documents and rewatched video of the entire trial. He said the book is structured in classic true crime fashion: the discovery of a body, followed by the investigation then litigation.
You can place an order locally at Russo's Books, 1601 New Stine Road, by calling 665-4686 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. One-day shipping is available. It is $12.99. Barnes and Noble, 4001 California Ave., will also have a few copies available in store early next week, or you can order a copy for $15. You can also find it on Amazon.com.
The Kern County case drew nationwide attention and was later featured on an episode of NBC's "Dateline."
A jury found true allegations that Limon, 38, told Hearn how to get to her husband's Tehachapi workplace and told him what hours he would be working on Aug. 17, 2014, the day of his death. It also found true that she used a disposable "burner" phone to communicate with Hearn in an effort to avoid detection by law enforcement.
During three days of testimony, Limon admitted to the affair but said she knew nothing of Hearn's plans to kill her husband, Robert Limon.
She faces 25 years to life at her Feb. 21 sentencing — however her new attorney is arguing for a re-trial.
Hearn, who accepted a plea agreement in return for his testimony, was sentenced to 25 years and four months in prison.