2 Weeks After Her Husband’s Mysterious Death, This Wife Had A Visit From A Man Holding Flowers

It is a time-honored custom to give flowers after a death, but the bouquet that Jonathan Hearn presented to recently widowed Sabrina Limon was entirely inappropriate. According to Limon’s friend, Kelly Bernatene, not only was it excessively large, but it contained the same kind of flowers used in her wedding bouquet. And it also came with a note.

The note, according to Bernatene, mused flatteringly on Limon’s dead husband, Robert, who had been violently murdered just two weeks previously. “It talked about what a wonderful man Rob was,” she told Dateline in 2017, “and how he wants to be the kind of person he was, and all these things.”

But the most alarming thing, according to Bernatene, wasn’t the words, but Sabrina’s response to them. “Isn’t this sweet?” said Sabrina. “Listen to this, listen to how sweet Jonathan is.” But Bernatene found Hearn’s gesture anything but sweet. “I’m trying not to throw up,” she said, recalling her own reaction. And she continued, “I’m trying not to scream. I’m just, like, freaking out…”

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At the time of his death, Robert Limon, 38, was living with Sabrina and their two children in Redlands, a small city within the Greater Los Angeles area. Employed as a railroad worker by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, he worked in Tehachapi – a mountain city nestled between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert in California.

On August 17, 2014, Robert was out of the yard for the day before coming back about 5:00 p.m. Later that evening, he was shot dead. His body was discovered in one of the railroad buildings. And surveillance film had captured a single lone suspect prowling around the yard at the time of the murder.

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Sabrina, 35, appeared to be grief-stricken. “The love he gave was more than some ever will feel or show,” she wrote on Facebook in memory of Robert. “I will carry it with me where ever I go, and remind our children of it daily as they grow. It’s a feeling of joy, yet I’m totally numb to the fact that I’m left on Earth now without him.”

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Three months later, police investigators hauled in Hearn, a 24-year-old Redlands firefighter. “Jonathan Hearn had become involved in a romantic relationship with Sabrina Limon in the months leading up to Robert Limon’s murder,” Ray Pruitt from the Kern County Sheriff’s Department told the Kern Golden Empire, a Bakersfield news website.

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In fact, they had been having an affair for years. Sabrina had met Hearn (11 years her junior) while employed at Costco in 2012. After swapping telephone numbers, they became intimate. And as time went on, they longed for a life together, just the two of them, without Robert.

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Police suspicions therefore fell on Sabrina too. In November 2014, they took her into custody. However, at that time, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office lacked enough evidence to press charges. But this situation changed after a shock confession from Hearn – and a controversial plea bargain.

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In January 2017, Hearn made a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for a full confession, they agreed to drop his murder charges and replace them with voluntary manslaughter and other charges. However, there was one other caveat: he would have to testify against his former lover. And so later that year, Hearn submitted a disturbing court testimony implicating Sabrina in the murder of her husband.

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He said at her trial in 2017, “Her frustrations with Rob became my frustrations, her demons became my demons.” And he continued,  “I had a frank disgust for him that was developing… As ironic and sad as this sounds, for Rob’s sake she expressed that he would honestly rather be dead than divorced.”

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In due course, the prosecution alleged that Sabrina had conspired with Hearn to murder Robert. Using an untraceable “burner phone,” she informed Hearn of her husband’s movements, his working hours and whereabouts in Tehachapi. The apparent motive for the murder was love – as well as an alleged $300,000 life insurance payout.

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Hearn said in court, “I planned to confront Rob directly in Tehachapi.” And he continued, “I was definitely armed to kill him. However, I wasn’t sure if I’d do that or not.” In fact, Hearn took the opportunity to shoot Robert not once, but twice. “I really didn’t want to leave him if he wasn’t entirely dead, so I went back around the back side of the truck and quickly fired one more shot at him.”

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Furthermore, according to Hearn, he and Sabrina had attempted to murder Robert on at least one previous occasion. After purchasing deadly arsenic trioxide on the internet, Hearn had baked a poisoned banana pudding and given it to Sabrina to pass onto Robert. However, fearing they might be caught, Sabrina phoned Robert at work and told him to throw the pudding away.

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Sabrina denied all involvement in the murder. Her defense attorney Richard Terry argued that Hearn’s testimony – the only really solid evidence against her, he claimed – could not be considered reliable. “Hearn saved his own butt,” Terry said, suggesting that Hearn had only implicated Sabrina to reduce his prison sentence.

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However, prosecutors also cited a vast body of phone calls and text messages between Hearn and Sabrina. Collected in the aftermath of the murder using a wiretap, their calls included hours of baby talk interspersed with detailed discussions about the investigation, including strategies for handling the lead investigator. Tellingly, Sabrina would call Hearn immediately after any significant interactions with the police.

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Meanwhile, Hearn talked a lot about God, apparently identifying with King David, who committed adultery with one of his soldier’s wives. According to the biblical tale, David went on to kill the soldier, but God ultimately forgave him. “He made a lot of big mistakes,” he told Sabrina. “He went out of his way to cover up his sin… [but David] was one of God’s favorite people ever.”

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On October 5, 2017, after a trial lasting three weeks, the jury found Sabrina guilty on four counts: murder, being an accessory to a crime, conspiracy, and solicitation to commit murder. Regarding the apparent attempt to poison Robert, she was acquitted of attempted murder and mingling harmful substances with food or drink.

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Meanwhile, after his confession, Hearn was sentenced to 25 years and four months in prison (with three-and-a-half years already served). However, Sabrina’s sentencing has been delayed, possibly until February 2018. Originally scheduled to be sentenced in November, she has replaced her attorney and is seeking a retrial.

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For now, however, Robert’s family appear to be satisfied with a guilty verdict. “I’m excited. I’m relieved,” Robert’s sister, Chris Wilson, told the news website Bakersfield outside the courthouse. “It’s just been a long three years, and it’s time to put this behind us and move on. It’ll never bring my brother back, but it will bring justice, and that’s what we’ve been looking for.”

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