In the months following Robert Limon’s murder, Jonathan Hearn suspected detectives wiretapped the phone line of his lover, Sabrina Limon — who prosecutors allege conspired with Hearn to kill her husband, according to testimony heard in court Monday.
To throw investigators off Hearn’s tracks, he created false narratives in conversation, discussing with Limon “how random” the murder was, feigning excitement over breakthroughs in the case and casting suspicion over a Barstow man Hearn said he heard police questioned.
During one recording, Limon told Hearn the murder was “God’s plan for Robert.”
Prosecutors introduced six recordings of telephone calls made between Limon, Hearn, and a Kern County Sheriff’s Office detective Monday, the sixth day of a criminal trial in Kern County Superior Court that is expected to last a month.
Prosecutors allege that although Hearn, a firefighter from Hesperia, admitted to shooting and killing Robert Limon in a Tehachapi train yard where he worked in August 2014, that he planned it with Sabrina Limon. He agreed to testify against his former lover in exchange for a plea deal of 25 years and four months in prison.
Defense attorneys say Limon had no knowledge of Hearn’s plans to kill Robert.
She’s standing trial on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation to commit murder, attempted murder, accessory to murder and mingling harmful substances with food or drink, which occurred when Hearn said he sprinkled arsenic trioxide into a portion of banana pudding before Limon packed it in his lunch, part of an initial poisoning plot that Limon backed out of when she told her husband to toss out the dessert because the bananas had spoiled.
The recordings introduced Monday offer a glimpse into Hearn and Limon’s relationship after the murder and reveal how the two confided in each other their worries about the direction of the investigation. The recordings also show Hearn’s renewed interest in Christianity. He ends most conversations either in prayer, or by thanking God.
“God, and pursuit of God, and His forgiveness and His grace — it was a very serious pursuit for me,” Hearn testified. “I was starting to pay attention to the teachings of God, and what God had to say about — especially forgiveness and grace. The context is that three months before, I killed somebody. It weighs heavily on the soul.”
Hearn and Limon discussed in phone calls “God’s purpose,” which Hearn testified was a “catch-all” phrase for his and Limon’s future life together, including the family they would raise.
He also prayed for God to misdirect investigators away from him and Limon.
“We serve a big God, and he’s in the business of miracles,” Hearn told Limon in a November 2014 phone call.
Limon told the detective that her husband’s death was “so random, so crazy,” then asked: “So, there’s no information at all?” Nothing, the detective said.
Limon called Hearn minutes later.
“Everything is fine,” she told him. “No questions at all.”
Hearn and Limon “shared in mutual excitement … that everything seemed fine,” he testified. He thought he had gotten away with murder.
“God has saved us,” he said.
“I love you,” Hearn told Limon at the end of the conversation, before adding: “And I love you, God.”
Continued references to the “randomness” of Robert Limon’s murder was the foundation of the cover-up, Hearn testified.
“The idea was to cause the whole thing to look as if there had been a robbery,” Hearn testified. “It was the foundation of our plan.”
Later, an excited detective called Limon in November 2014 to inform her that the crime lab had turned up some DNA it hadn’t found before: a drop of sweat from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train yard where Robert Limon was murdered.
“Oh really, that’s great!” Limon told the detective before he asked her to travel from her San Bernardino home to Bakersfield for a final interview. Half an hour later, she called Hearn to tell him. By that time, he suspected police tapped her phone line, he testified.
At that moment, Hearn began suspecting the phone conversations from the detective to Limon were a “ruse” to collect incriminating evidence against her, he testified.
“In that moment, my stomach hit the ground,” Hearn testified, later telling Limon he thought it was “one great big butter-up.”
Hearn began creating false narratives to throw off police. He raised suspicions about a man in Barstow he thought police questioned in relation to the murder. He feigned excitement over the new DNA lead, then told Limon he wanted to meet with her before she went to Bakersfield.
“Just [to] pray and get all your thoughts together, you know?” Hearn told her.
In phone calls with Hearn, Limon grew frustrated as the investigation seemed to be directed more toward her.
“I want them to find the killer — not focus on my personal life,” Limon said. “I’m dealing with my sin in the sickness of my stomach, and I’m feeling sin for a reason … God wants me to feel that way. It’s not like I’m going to live happily ever after with Jonathan, and it’s not like now you get to be my husband — no. I need to feel that pain every single day.”
In a phone call later that day — without mentioning her husband’s murder — she lamented past sinful behaviors and complained about how her friends praised her for her strength after her husband’s murder.
“I have to be a good girl. I feel that more than ever. I have to be a good girl for Him. He is like my father. I want to be a good girl, God. I want to be a good girl. And I have been a bad girl,” Limon told Hearn. “I feel like the most horrible person in the world.”
The same day, Limon and Hearn spoke again, and Hearn said he expected investigators suspected he was involved in the murder because of their affair.
“Does it look like we’re involved? Of course. What a disaster,” Hearn told Limon.
“What a disaster, what a disaster,” Limon said. “I can’t even think of that.”
Said Hearn: “That’s the reality.”