A woman stands trial for allegedly murdering her co-worker at a hair salon in Nassau County, Florida. Jurors will determine if Kimberly Kessler, 53, killed mother-of-three Joleen Cummings, 34, at the Tangles Hair Salon on May 12, 2018, and hid her body. Trial began Monday, Dec. 6. You can watch in the player above.
Cummings and Kessler had a confrontation just three days before she was last seen, according a a version of events reported by WJXT. Cummings said she was going to start looking into Kessler’s history, saying she did not believe her coworker said who she said she was, another colleague said.
Kessler allegedly told her Tangles coworkers her name was Jennifer Sybert. Authorities have said she lived under many aliases over the years. 17 names in 33 cities and 14 states since 1996, Nassau County Bill Leeper said.
Cummings remains missing, but authorities believe she is dead. There was evidence of blood around the salon, from the walls, chairs and cabinets to a sink drain, bleach bottle, and mop, authorities said. There was blood on the mop strokes on the floor, authorities said. Cummings’s blood was also found on Kessler’s boot, Kessler’s scissors, a sock, and a storage locker belonging to Kessler, authorities said. There was also a Walmart receipt for trash bags, an electric knife, and a large bottle of ammonia, authorities said.
Surveillance footage of the night Cumming was last seen showed Kessler struggling to move two heavy white trash bags to a dumpster authorities have said. Kessler seemed “tired and unsteady on her feet,” according to their description of the video.
She faces a count of first-degree murder, as well as grand theft auto.
Cummings’s SUV was found outside of a Home Depot. The missing woman was last seen the day before her birthday–Mother’s Day.
“When your child is murdered, grief is only the beginning,” Cummings’s mother Anne Johnson said in a statement to First Coast News. “What a true statement. Not only for my family but especially for Joleen’s three children. The hardest part of grieving is waiting for justice. Waiting for Joleen’s remains to be found. The children are surrounded by Joleen’s pictures. While I know Joleen’s soul is in heaven, I feel her spirit is here, watching over her children. Sometimes, I hear her say, ‘Mom do this or do that.’ ‘Kiss and hug the kids for me.’ It brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.”
Kessler repeatedly made scenes in court during the pre-trial process, once appearing at a hearing stripped to a wheelchair and yelling “Jordan Beard is Joleen Cummings’s cousin.”
She was charged in April with throwing feces at jail guards, allegedly also smearing it on herself and the walls. Jail guards testified she lost more than half her weight from the time of her arrest, starting at 196 and dipping to 74 by fall 2020.
”I’m not afraid of going to hell,” Kessler allegedly told a guard, according to WJXT. “It’s time.”
Other testimony said that Kessler asserted “she did what she did” because her mother was Satanist and that Kessler was also looking for a loophole so she could go to heaven despite dying by suicide.
Psychologist Dr. Louis Legum suggested in testimony that Kessler lives with delusional disorder and personality disorder.
But state’s expert Dr. Graham Danzer said there was no evidence of delusional disorder, despite her being manipulative and noncompliant.
Circuit Judge James Daniel initially ruled her incompetent to stand trial, but ultimately suggested she was a psychopath, not delusional. The court determined her refusal to cooperate was due not to mental illness but because she simply did not want to, according to The Florida Times-Union.
[Booking photo via Nassau County Sheriff’s Office]
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