For the first time in nearly a month, Department 6 of Kern County Superior Court doesn't have a designated "media area" just outside the courtroom.

There's no longer a crowd of people anxiously waiting just outside the door, no journalists pounding on laptops or witnesses fiddling with cellphones as they wait to be called. 

The trial of Sabrina Limon, without question the most highly publicized court case in Kern County this year, ended Thursday with guilty verdicts for murder and other crimes after jurors found that Limon conspired with her lover in the murder of her husband three years ago.

Judge John R. Brownlee will begin presiding over other trials, and attorneys Eric Smith and Richard Terry will start prosecuting other cases and defending new clients, respectively. 

And Limon, for a short time, will remain housed at Lerdo Jail. After her sentencing hearing Nov. 3, she'll enter the state's prison system, likely for the rest of her life. 

She faces 25 years to life at sentencing. Her lover, Jonathan Hearn, the man who fatally shot Limon's husband, is set to be sentenced to 25 years and four months in prison later this month in exchange for testifying at her trial. 

Here are a few final observations on the trial that captured the county's attention, brought NBC's "Dateline" to the courthouse and is expected to be the subject of a forthcoming book by true crime author Michael Fleeman.


Each judge, naturally, adds something of his or her own personality to the proceedings during interactions with jurors, witnesses and attorneys.

During Limon's trial, Brownlee saluted the jury every time it sat after entering the courtroom, as well as before each break. At times he'd loudly clap his hands and ask if everyone was awake, prompting laughter.

And every now and then the jury received a little extra time for lunch. If an attorney needed some time to call the next witness or was about to enter a new line of questioning and it was close to noon, Brownlee would ask the jury if there was any objection to breaking early.

"Seeing none," he'd then immediately say, again eliciting laughter, "I'll see you back at 1:30."


Livestreaming of the trial lasted from opening statements to the reading of the verdicts. But the coverage was nearly shut down in the trial's final week.

"Dateline" and personnel from local television stations took turns each week operating the camera inside the courtroom.

Oct. 2 marked KERO Channel 23's turn with the camera, and at one point the KERO cameraman inadvertently filmed a juror.

Brownlee considered shutting the coverage down, but eventually chose to remove Channel 23 from the camera and let "Dateline" operate it for the remainder of the week and, as it turned out, the rest of the trial. 


On Wednesday, the single day jurors deliberated, only a few people who had been in attendance throughout the trial stopped by the courtroom. With the exception of media, the hallway outside Department 6 remained mostly empty.

A man and woman who had sat on the side of the gallery reserved for Robert Limon's family briefly stopped by in the morning and afternoon, and one of Robert Limon's sisters also dropped by. 

Nevertheless, word spread to a number of family and friends of both Robert Limon and Sabrina Limon that the jury had reached a verdict. A small crowd, including investigators and members of the general public, was waiting outside the courtroom before proceedings began Thursday morning.


Months before Hearn gunned down Robert Limon, Hearn testified, he and Sabrina Limon tried killing him with poison. Hearn testified he mixed arsenic into what Sabrina Limon told him was her husband's favorite dessert: banana pudding with Nilla wafers.

He said he gave the tainted serving to Sabrina Limon, who then gave it to her husband to take to work. Later, the two discussed the possibility of getting caught, Hearn said, and Sabrina Limon called her husband and told him to throw the pudding out.

After Thursday's verdicts, Robert Limon's sisters said they were still struggling to understand why Sabrina Limon wanted their brother dead, why she didn't just get a divorce.

As they continue to struggle to make sense of the killing, and how they apparently had no idea of the true nature of their sister-in-law, they also hinted that Sabrina Limon didn't really know her own husband, at least not the details. 

Robert Limon's favorite dessert was ice cream topped with popcorn, they said, not banana pudding. 

Jason Kotowski can be reached at 661-395-7491. Follow him on Twitter: @tbcbreakingnews.

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