Called to the witness stand Wednesday, a sister of admitted killer Jonathan Hearn described her brother as the kindest man she knows.
That assessment has been shaken somewhat since Jonathan Hearn confessed to shooting his lover's husband to death in 2014, Emily Hearn said. Still, she sees positive aspects of his character.
"You even still try to find a way (to believe) it's not true because it just doesn't make sense with the man that I know," she said.
Jonathan Hearn confessed earlier this year to shooting Robert Limon while he worked at a Tehachapi railway yard on Aug. 17, 2014. He told investigators he and Sabrina Limon, Robert Limon's wife, had carried on an affair for years and they plotted the killing so they could be together.
He has agreed to testify at Sabrina Limon's trial in exchange for a prison sentence of 25 years and four months in prison. The two were originally arrested in November 2014, but Sabrina Limon was released due to insufficient evidence.
She was rearrested in January after Hearn agreed to testify.
On Wednesday, the third day of Sabrina Limon's trial on charges including murder and attempted murder, Emily Hearn testified she could see why her brother liked the married woman. He didn't go for frivolous, shallow girls, she said.
"The women he went for had a little bit of baggage and a little bit of depth," Emily Hearn said.
Sabrina Limon, she said, seemed to fit that mold. Emily Hearn said she quickly felt close to the other woman after her brother introduced them. She said Sabrina Limon felt "like family."
While she didn't know the extent of her brother's relationship with Sabrina Limon, Emily Hearn said, she knew the two had been friends for some time.
After Robert Limon's death, she and another person asked him questions about his involvement with Sabrina Limon, and how it could appear suspicious.
"I do remember saying, 'You know how this looks. You were spending a lot of time with this guy's wife before he was murdered,'" she testified.
She said Jonathan Hearn gave her no indication he was involved in the killing.
Emily Hearn, who is in her mid-20s, seemed slightly nervous during her testimony, often smiling and giggling. She twice became tearful: once when she testified to how close she and Sabrina Limon had been, and again when talking about her brother being a killer.
Defense attorney Richard Terry asked about her brother's reaction to hearing about Robert Limon's death.
"He acted very surprised and kind of shook up," Emily Hearn said.
She said the reaction seemed genuine.
Mike and Carol Hearn, Jonathan Hearn's parents, also testified to being unaware of their son's involvement in the killing.
Carol Hearn said she only became suspicious after Jonathan Hearn wrote her some letters from jail.
"There was some wording that made me have a suspicion his hands were not clean," she testified.
"But until those letters he successfully deceived you?" Terry asked.
"I would have to answer yes," she said.
Terry is trying to convince jurors that Jonathan Hearn was highly intelligent and skilled at manipulating others, and that he planned the killing without assistance from his client. He has said the only evidence against Sabrina Limon is the word of Jonathan Hearn.
The Limons lived in Helendale. Jonathan Hearn, a former Redlands firefighter, lived in Hesperia. He met Sabrina Limon while making purchases for the fire department at the Costco store in Victorville, where Sabrina Limon handed out samples, according to court testimony.
The two began an on-again, off-again affair, according to court testimony. Prosecutor Eric Smith said they eventually decided to kill Robert Limon so they could spend their lives together.
And to collect a large sum of money from his death.
Sabrina Limon stood to receive $300,000 in life insurance, plus lifelong benefits from her husband's employer, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, since he was killed while on the job.
There was also the possibility that Sabrina Limon could have received hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in a settlement with BNSF, Daniel Flatten, the railway's general director of claims, told the court.
He said he had several discussions with Sabrina Limon after her husband's death, explaining the benefits package she would receive and offering to provide the family with other assistance. BNSF paid Robert Limon's funeral expenses.
Flatten testified Sabrina Limon at least twice brought up receiving a financial settlement from BNSF. He said he told her it was too early to begin that process as the investigation into her husband's death was still ongoing.
The final witnesses called Wednesday were Kern County sheriff's detectives who conducted a search of Jonathan Hearn's former residence after he agreed to testify. He told them to search a 5-gallon paint bucket inside a garage on the property.
Detectives found nothing connected to the case in the buckets inside the garage, but just east of the garage were three other buckets, Detective Victor Garcia testified.
Inside one was a bag containing several bottles, a scale and petri dishes, Garcia said. A small glass bottle contained arsenic trioxide, and the other bottles contained copper sulphate, ethylene glycol and hydrochloric acid.
Jonathan Hearn told investigators he and Sabrina Limon had at first planned to kill her husband by poisoning banana pudding — his favorite snack — with arsenic trioxide.
He said he poisoned the pudding and Sabrina Limon sent it with her husband to work, but they decided to abort the plan later that day over fear of getting caught. He told investigators Sabrina Limon called her husband and told him to throw out the pudding because it had gone bad.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday.