When the verdict came in, Karen Hudgins burst out the courtroom doors and steamed down the hall, cursing and swearing. Her best friend, Sabrina Limon, had just been found guilty of murdering her husband — a crime Hudgins is convinced she couldn’t have committed.
“They sent an innocent woman to prison for life,” said Hudgins. She dismissed the detectives involved in the case as liars, claimed she had been threatened by investigators and declared that the jury’s minds were made up before they ever reached the courtroom because of the intense media coverage of Limon’s murder.
She called the county, its police and its system of justice “scandalous,” just as Detective Randall Meyer, who built the case against Limon, descended the courthouse escalator.
“Dirty cops,” she said, looking at him in the eyes. “I’ve got a lot to say.”
Along with the rest of Limon’s family, Hudgins slipped out a side door, far from the gaggle of television reporters, cameras and attention on the front courthouse steps.
Limon’s family and friends struggled there to make sense of the verdict — that their cousin, sister and aunt could be sent away to prison for the rest of her life for a murder another person had actually carried out. They couldn’t understand how the jury could deliberate for less than six hours and come back with a decision that could effectively end a woman’s life.
“We know her,” Limon’s niece, Stephanie Ross, said. “She didn’t do this.”
The family said they plan to appeal the decision.
Ross’ boyfriend, Tim Plant, admitted that Limon is naive — and that’s exactly the reason she was so easily manipulated by a man as calculating as Jonathan Hearn, he said.
“You have to look at every piece of evidence to convict somebody for life. I didn’t see any,” Plant said. “The only thing I saw was [Hearn] get on the stand and manipulate the whole situation. He’s a confessed murderer up there trying to save [himself].”
Hearn and Limon had been carrying on an affair behind Robert Limon’s back for months. Hearn confessed to traveling, on Aug. 17, 2014, to a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train yard in Tehachapi, where Robert Limon worked, and shooting him to death. Prosecutors said that Sabrina Limon conspired with Hearn to plan her husband’s murder. Jurors agreed.
But outside the courtroom, Limon’s family members were baffled by Hearn’s testimony, which lasted eight days. How could the jury believe somebody who admitted to killing a man in cold blood, and talked about it on the stand, as defense attorney Richard Terry described in closing statements, “as if he was discussing how he brushes his teeth in the morning.”
“She didn’t do this,” Limon’s sister, Julie Cordova, said as she fought back tears, flanked by Hudgins and Limon’s cousin, Krystal Barr. “This is wrong. It’s all wrong. They’ve got it all wrong. How can they believe a psychopath? How?”
The jury found that one of the stories Hearn told on the stand — a plot line about a botched attempt to poison Robert with arsenic-laced pudding — not provable beyond a reasonable doubt. Limon was found not guilty of those attempted murder and poisoning charges. But if jurors questioned that, Limon's family asked themselves, why didn't they question all of Hearn's testimony?
The family is convinced that the jury pool was tainted before the jurors were selected. The trial could never have been fair when it was held in Kern County, where so much news coverage of the murder has centered, Hudgins said.
“She was convicted before she got up there. Her story was created before she got on the stand. It should never have been here,” Hudgins said.
Most of all, Cordova said, she was devastated for Limon’s children, who Limon called every night of the trial. They talked about school and friends. Limon would tell them how much she loved them.
“The kids don’t have a father, and now they don’t have a mother, and I look at them in the face and they are in so much pain,” said Cordova, who has been caring for Limon’s kids at her Camarillo home since she was arrested last year.
“My poor Brina,” Cordova cried out as she walked away from the courthouse, Barr and Ross at her side. “My poor Brina.”
Harold Pierce can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @RoldyPierce.