BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An attorney for Sabrina Limon, whose lengthy trial in 2017 captured the community’s attention with its details of a “swinger” lifestyle, love triangle and poisoned pudding, is arguing her murder conviction should be tossed because testimony from the prosecution’s key witness — Limon’s co-defendant and former lover — was not corroborated by other evidence.
Co-defendant Jonathan Hearn testified he and Limon plotted her husband’s killing for months before he gunned the other man down. The prosecution failed in its burden of producing independent evidence supporting Hearn’s claims, according to appellate lawyer Valerie G. Wass.
In a document filed Wednesday, Wass argued Limon’s conviction should be overturned in its entirety. If her murder conviction is upheld, however, then Limon’s conviction as an accessory should be reversed since she was found guilty of being both a principal and an accessory to the same crime, Wass said in her opening brief.
“Although (Limon) made statements in the course of her police interviews that corroborated certain parts of (Hearn’s) testimony, she did not corroborate any portion that connected her to the commission of murder, solicitation, and conspiracy offenses,” Wass said in the brief.
The attorney also argues Limon did not receive a fair trial by an impartial jury because the judge allowed the proceedings to be live-streamed on multiple websites and failed to “consistently and adequately” tell jurors to avoid news reports and social media. The court refused to sequester the jury, as requested by the defense, despite enormous pretrial publicity, Wass said in the filing.
The state Attorney General’s office has 60 days to file its brief but could get an extension. Wass will then file a reply, and the 5th District Court of Appeal will make its ruling, which could take months or more than year.
Limon, 41, is serving 25 years to life in prison at Central California Women’s Facility. Prosecutors dismissed a murder charge against Hearn and allowed him to enter no contest pleas to voluntary manslaughter and other charges in exchange for testifying at Limon’s trial. He received a prison term of sentence of 25 years and four months instead of the life term he had faced if convicted of murder.
Hearn, a former Redlands firefighter, and Limon, who lived with her husband in the Silver Lakes area, carried on an affair for months before Hearn shot her husband at a Tehachapi railway yard on Aug. 17, 2014. Hearn said they were in love and needed Robert Limon dead so they could be together and raise the Limons’ two children.
They also planned on collecting $300,000 in life insurance and the continuing benefits afforded railroad workers, Hearn told the jury.
But Wass’s filing argues Hearn alone was convinced the two would share a future that didn’t include Limon’s husband.
“There is no question that (Hearn’s) notes, letters and statements to (Limon) evidenced his desire to eventually marry her and help raise her children,” the filing says. “In fact they illustrate his utter obsession with her.
“But (Limon’s) cards, notes, and statements to (Hearn) prior to Robert’s death, while demonstrating her infatuation with him and expressing her love, were ambiguous as to whether she planned a future with him that did not include Robert,” according to the document. “This evidence did not corroborate (Hearn’s) testimony that (Limon) acted with the requisite intent to kill.”
Limon’s defense attorney, Richard Terry, argued at trial Hearn acted alone in plotting and killing Robert Limon. Sabrina Limon testified she had an affair with Hearn but knew nothing of his plan to kill her husband.
Over multiple days on the witness stand, Hearn testified he and Sabrina Limon at first plotted to poison Robert Limon, 38, by giving him banana pudding sprinkled with arsenic. Sabrina Limon placed the poisoned pudding in her husband’s lunch, Hearn said, but got cold feet over fear of getting caught. Hearn testified she told him she called Robert Limon at work and told him not to eat the pudding because it had gone bad.
Months later, they decided a shooting staged to look like a robbery would be the best way to get rid of Robert Limon, according to Hearn. While Sabrina Limon didn’t pull the trigger, she was involved in planning her husband’s death every step of the way, Hearn testified.
During the trial, prosecutors played hours of wiretapped phone calls between Hearn and Sabrina Limon that Hearn explained were discussions, sometimes using biblical passages, about them avoiding getting caught. Prosecutors also called witnesses who testified to the Limons’ lifestyle of swapping sexual partners, and showed the jury surveillance video that captured Hearn fleeing the scene of the shooting.
Hearn testified part of the reason Sabrina Limon and him connected stemmed from her displeasure with the swinging lifestyle. She wanted a monogamous relationship while her husband didn’t want to give up having multiple sexual partners.
Jurors on Oct. 5, 2017, found Sabrina Limon guilty of murder, conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder and being an accessory.