Close friends of a California couple were shocked when, two weeks after Robert Limon’s then-unsolved 2014 shooting death, his wife, Sabrina Limon, welcomed a visit with flowers and an affectionate letter from the man who eventually admitted plotting with her to kill him.
“‘Well, you’ll never guess who just came and visited Sabrina last night,’ ” Jason Bernatene remembers his wife, Kelly, telling him in the aftermath of Robert’s murder, according to an exclusive clip from an episode of NBC’s Dateline, airing Friday night.
“And I said, ‘Please, no,’ ” Jason says. “And she says, ‘Yes, it was Jonathan.’ ”
Jonathan Hearn and Sabrina Limon are scheduled to be sentenced on Friday in Kern County, California, circuit court for their roles in the Aug. 17, 2014, shooting of Robert, 38, to which Hearn confessed.
Hearn — a 27-year-old former firefighter in Redlands, California, who was described by prosecutors as Sabrina’s former lover — accepted a plea deal last January on charges of voluntary manslaughter and other counts in connection with Robert’s death, reports the Bakersfield Californian.
He agreed to testify against Sabrina at her trial in exchange for a prison term of 25 years and four months, according to the newspaper.
Sabrina, 37, was found guilty on Oct. 5 and faces 25 years to life in prison for the first-degree murder, which occurred at her husband’s workplace after she and Jonathan had allegedly nixed a prior attempt to kill Robert with banana pudding poisoned by arsenic that Jonathan ordered online, according to Jonathan’s testimony at her trial.
Hearn’s visit with Sabrina after Robert’s slaying in 2014 alarmed the Bernatenes — who were her and Robert’s friends — for several reasons, including the flowers that Hearn brought with him, the couple tells Dateline.
“We’re not talking like a little thing of flowers,” Kelly Bernatene says in the clip. “I mean, we’re talking like a huge bouquet of flowers that just happened to be the flowers that were in her wedding bouquet.”
She says Sabrina also shared with her a letter that Hearn delivered: “It talked about what a wonderful man Rob was, and how he wants to be the kind of person he was, and all these things.”
But Kelly says she was put off by Sabrina’s reaction to the note so soon after she’d lost her husband to a violent and mysterious end.
“‘Isn’t this sweet? Listen to this, listen to how sweet Jonathan is,’ ” Kelly recalls of Sabrina’s response. “So I’m trying not throw up, I’m trying not to scream. I’m just, like, freaking out.”
In a subsequent Facebook post, Sabrina paid tribute to her husband, writing on Sept. 9, 2014: “Robert showed his love, compassion, hardworking skills, and genuine kindness to everyone he met.”
She added: “I will never let Rob’s love die or fade out. I will carry it with me wherever I go, and remind our children of it daily as they grow.”
But according to police and prosecutors, Sabrina was having an extramarital affair with the firefighter she’d met in 2012, and the pair plotted the murder so that they could be together.
“It was inevitable that Rob needed to die for Sabrina and I to move forward with our relationship,” Hearn testified at her trial, according to local TV station KCAL.
What’s more, according to the Californian, Sabrina was to receive $300,000 in life insurance after her husband’s death, among other benefits.
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Sabrina’s attorney, Richard Terry, told reporters after her conviction that with his testimony against her, “Hearn saved his own butt.” Terry separately told PEOPLE that he plans to appeal her conviction.
The prosecutor, Eric Smith, previously told PEOPLE, “[Hearn’s] testimony was integral to her conviction, but there was other evidence beyond just him.”
Hearn’s no-contest plea deal accepts his responsibility for voluntary manslaughter with firearm enhancement, attempted murder, poisoning and accessory to murder, the prosecutor said.
In addition to first-degree murder, Sabrina was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, soliciting murder and being an accessory after the fact.
She was found not-guilty on charges of attempted murder and poisoning.
The Dateline episode, titled “Secrets at Silver Lakes,” airs Friday (9 p.m. ET) on NBC.