Murder defendant Sabrina Limon took the stand Thursday and told jurors how she met and fell in love with the Redlands firefighter with whom she's accused of conspiring in the death of her husband.
She said Jonathan Hearn came along in her life after she and her husband were experiencing difficulties due in part to having an open marriage with other Helendale couples. Hearn, whom she met in 2012 while working at Costco, made her feel special, she said.
There wasn't a romantic attraction at first, Limon said, but she came to appreciate his intelligence and eloquence. Being around him became like an addiction.
"He was like nobody I'd ever met before," she said.
Defense attorney Richard Terry asked exactly how committed she was to him.
"If you knew that Jonathan killed your husband, would you have been involved in a relationship after your husband was killed?" he asked.
"No," she said.
"Would you allow someone who had killed your husband to be around your children?"
"No. Absolutely not," she said.
Limon's testimony arrived 13 days into her trial on multiple charges, including first-degree murder, in her husband's Aug. 17, 2014, death. She spoke softly, pausing often during her testimony, which continues Friday.
Prosecutor Eric Smith has presented evidence he says shows Limon plotted the death of 38-year-old Robert Limon with Hearn. He played wiretapped messages between the two in which they discuss how much authorities know about the killing, and what she should say to investigators.
Hearn testified earlier in the trial, admitting to shooting Robert Limon to death at a Tehachapi railway yard after planning the killing — and a prior murder attempt — with Sabrina Limon.
Terry has argued the only evidence against his client is Hearn's word. And that can't be trusted, he said, given that Hearn no longer faces life in prison after working out a plea agreement in return for his testimony.
On Thursday, Terry attempted to show jurors his client was manipulated by Hearn and never planned for her husband to die. Through more than two hours of questioning, he elicited responses from Sabrina Limon spanning the early years of her marriage to after her husband's death.
She didn't graduate from high school and married at 20 years old, she testified. She gave birth to a son three years later, then a daughter three years after that.
Sabrina Limon testified she was happy in her marriage to Robert Limon, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway employee, until around 2008. That's when they began engaging in a swinger's lifestyle, swapping sexual partners with other couples.
"We opened our marriage bed and changed the dynamics of our sacred bond," she said.
Sabrina Limon testified she began drinking heavily, and even developed an emotional bond with a sexual partner until her husband told her to cut off the relationship. They partied a lot. Both of them became overly fixated on sex, she said.
Then Hearn came along. He talked with her while at Costco, where she handed out samples, while buying supplies for the fire station at which he worked.
They saw each other at the store a couple times before he asked for her number, Sabrina Limon testified. He called her later the same day, and she told him she was married.
Still, they kept in touch, meeting for coffee as they discussed their lives. And several months later, they began a romantic relationship.
Robert Limon was distracted during much of that time, Sabrina Limon testified. She said he had become hooked watching pornography online.
Hearn, however, showed her attention, she said. They began fantasizing about having a future together.
She described that period as almost like living two lives. There were the dreams and ideas she had with Hearn, yet she was also living a fantasy life with her husband, whom she said she still loved. Robert Limon was happy, energetic and hard-working, she testified.
"It's hard to explain today, that's for sure," she said.
She never, she testified, considered killing her husband or talked about it with Hearn. She said she would never want Robert Limon harmed; she hadn't even decided to leave him, and couldn't imagine her life without him.
When detectives asked if she or Robert Limon had been involved in affairs, Terry asked, why did she lie?
"Because I was embarrassed," she said.
She testified she didn't want the personal, private aspects of her and Robert Limon's lives to become public.
Also, Hearn told her to keep the relationship hidden, Sabrina Limon testified. She said he scared her into thinking how bad the affair would look.
Hearn was "very controlling," she testified, and knew how to make her feel guilty and do what he said.
"He told me the dangers of what can happen when an affair is exposed, how the police think and how they work," she said.
While comments like that were suspicious, Sabrina Limon testified she couldn't believe Hearn was involved in her husband's death. She loved him.
"He felt like my rock at that moment in time," she said.
During cross-examination, Smith attacked her assertion that Hearn controlled her.
He displayed photos Sabrina Limon sent to Hearn where she puckered her lips for him or was otherwise acting playful. One photo showed a note she wrote to Hearn telling him she loved him.
"Did he force you to write that?" Smith asked. "Was he controlling you at that moment?"
Sabrina Limon said there are no photographs that reveal how he controlled her. And she acknowledged she and Hearn pursued each other — it wasn't Hearn alone who wanted to keep their affair going.
With each photograph, Smith asked the same question: How did Hearn control her?
"I guess I have no physical evidence," she said.
Thursday morning, Limon's two children took the stand one after another and told the jury they love their mother and she would never do anything to harm them.
When her daughter — the first to testify — entered the courtroom, Sabrina Limon became emotional and mouthed words to her, her eyes filled with tears.
Robbie Limon, 14, and LeAnna Limon, 11, were each questioned briefly by Terry, with no cross-examination from Smith.
The children said Hearn showed up at their house at times after their father's death. He took them to the beach once, and other times they went on hikes.
He also tried to discipline them.
"He tried to act like my dad," Robbie Limon testified.
The teen said Hearn once asked him if he looked like the type of guy who would carry a gun.
Smith continues his cross-examination of Sabrina Limon Friday morning.