Joleen Cummings, 34, was killed by convicted killer Kimberly Kessler, and she will remain behind bars for the rest of her life.
Cummings’ disappearance was reported in May 2018, but her body has never been located. Kessler was convicted of killing her in December. In Fernandina Beach, at Tangles Hair Salon, the two women collaborated on projects.
If the death penalty is not requested, life in prison is the required sentence in a first-degree murder case. Judge James Daniel, however, stated that the punishment will be given whether it was called for or not.
The state took the jury through the chronology of Kessler’s acts during closing arguments.
The state began by reminding the jury that Cummings had not used her bank account during the previous three years and had not been seen or heard from. According to the state, she was excited for her birthday and was planning to create her own mother a Mother’s Day gift with her children.
The state then reviewed all of the evidence, including the blood found throughout Tangles, the video of Kessler driving and parking Cummings’ car, and her internet searches for “Joleen Cummings no body no crime,” as well as the fact that the two women did not get along and that there was a tense exchange between them the day before Cummings vanished. Prosecutors presented evidence to the jury during closing arguments that demonstrated Kessler killed Cummings with scissors and then disposed of her body.
In their closing statements, the defense once more emphasized how irrelevant the online searches were and how buying zip ties had no bearing on the outcome of the case. Additionally, the defense lawyer cited Kessler’s legs, arm, and shoulders as having bruises. All of this, according to the defense, indicates that there was a violent altercation.
“What has the state failed to provide for you? Who began it? Who initiated this altercation’s violence? Who was making a defense? How did it turn out? Those inquiries have no solutions. The defense stated that you are not required to complete the blanks.
Following the decision, Leeper said that Cummings was instrumental in resolving the case.
She left her blood and DNA behind, and that’s what ultimately caught her. That is what enabled us to resolve this matter, he stated.
Kimberly Kessler, the Suspect of a Woman’s Disappearance
Sheriff Bill Leeper said on Friday that Kimberly Lee Kessler, who is currently being held in a jail cell in Nassau County on charges of stealing the SUV belonging to missing 34-year-old Joleen Cummings, had used at least 17 different aliases in 32 towns across 14 states.
Hairdresser Cummings, who co-worked with Kessler at a salon in Fernandina Beach, has been missing for three weeks and is presumed dead. Her mother made yet another fervent appeal for any information regarding her daughter as the search continues across the counties of Nassau, Duval, and St. Johns by land, air, and ocean.
In tears, mother Anne Johnson stated, “It’s been 20 days, and we’ve been on our hands and knees for Joleen.” “… We want to find her so badly.”
In announcing a $4,000 reward, Leeper stated the information they found during their investigation will stun the locals once they can share it all. And he is well aware of the lingering concerns around a woman with a shrouded history.
The motive behind all the disguises and whether she has previously been connected to the disappearance of anyone else are still unknown, according to Leeper. But it appears that she is escaping from something.
We have discovered that this case is really rare and one that I doubt we have ever seen in Nassau County as we continue to gather additional information and evidence.
Cummings was last seen leaving the Tangles Hair Salon at 5 p.m. on May 14, two days after she was declared officially missing. The Yulee mother was due to pick up their three children in Hilliard on May 13 to celebrate Mother’s Day and her birthday, but she never did. Kessler, who had worked at the same salon for approximately a month, including that Saturday, was the last person to claim to have seen her, according to Leeper.
On May 14, detectives attempted to speak with Kessler, but the 50-year-old failed to appear at work, according to Leeper. She had provided her boss a fake address as well. When Cummings’ Ford Expedition was later discovered on May 15 in a Yulee, Florida, parking lot along Florida A1A, security camera footage revealed that Kessler had abandoned it there on May 13. Kessler was seen May 16 sleeping in a car at an Interstate 95 rest area in St. Johns County after detectives increased their hunt for her.
Kessler, a former Butler, Pennsylvania resident, is still in jail after posting a $500,000 bail, according to jail records. She was discovered to be in possession of a phony ID and a bogus Social Security number, leading to a federal accusation of possession of a counterfeit passport. She is still being held in custody under the name Jennifer Marie Sybert, Leeper said.
A complex web has been uncovered by the examination into Kessler’s past.
She was reported missing by Pennsylvania State Police on July 4, 2004. According to the flyer, she went by the aliases Pamela Kleber or Kleiber. Then, at the news conference on Friday, Leeper listed the numerous names she has been using since 1996, including those and a number of others. He said that she had held five different driver’s licenses while working in restaurants, temp agencies, hair salons, and trucking companies in locations like Boca Raton, Tampa, St. Augustine, Oviedo, and Jacksonville in Florida and a dozen other states.
Nearly 40 locations in Nassau where Kessler had allegedly gone have been checked by investigators, but none have turned up, according to Leeper. Cummings “may be anywhere” because they collaborate with the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and local sheriff’s offices.
To locate any hints as to Joleen’s whereabouts, investigators have combed through hundreds of hours of video surveillance from commercial establishments and phone records, according to the sheriff.
The Butler Eagle newspaper claims that Kessler has a clean criminal record in her former Pennsylvania neighborhood. The name she used at the hair salon, according to authorities, was allegedly taken from the gravestone of a woman who passed away in 1987 and was buried in Butler.
Wylie Hodges, executive director of First Coast Crime Stoppers, stated that his organization has so far received 23 tips but needs more since “this family does deserve closure.”
The State Defense Rest Their Cases
On Wednesday, both the prosecution and the defense rested their cases.
Lead Detective Wayne Harrington, who had previously testified for the state, was the only witness the defense called before adjourning. A baggie discovered at the Tangles Hair Salon a few days after Cummings vanished was presented to Harrington by the defense. He said the baggie had a substance that was similar to chalk, but he doesn’t think it was examined for evidence. Where in the salon the baggie was discovered is unknown. The defense claimed in a motion filed last month that Cummings and Kessler had a dispute about narcotics in the workplace.
After two days of testimony from various witnesses, the state took a break.
On Wednesday, the prosecution concentrated on Kessler’s internet searches. Detective Charity Rose from the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office mentioned in court testimony that thousands of searches were made on Kessler’s phone in the days before Cummings vanished on May 12, 2018. “Autopsy,” “cadavers,” “murderpedia,” “victimpedia,” “female murderers by nation,” and “Florida female murderers,” among other terms, according to Rose, were searched on May 16 by Kessler, who also looked up other information about Cummings’ disappearance.
The defense contended that it was impossible to determine the whole context of the searches or who was actually conducting them.
According to Michelle Money’s testimony, Kessler enquired about the presence of live video monitoring and whether it was being recorded at the Storage on Sadler site. Another witness, a worker at West Marine in Fernandina Beach, claimed that on May 5, 2018, Kessler made a cash purchase of heavy-duty zip ties there.
On Wednesday, Kessler was hauled three times into the courtroom. She was invited to take part because the judge wanted to. She yelled, as she has frequently during the trial, “Jordan Beard is Joleen Cummings’ cousin,” during each of her three outbursts. Kessler’s former attorney, Jordan Beard, is not Cummings’ cousin. Kessler was taken out of the courtroom and placed in a different room where she could see the proceedings as the jury was not present at this time. Kessler acted in court on both Monday and Tuesday.
What is the Evidence Found?
Detectives’ testimony on Tuesday was largely centered on information gleaned at Tangles Hair Salon, the women’s place of employment. Investigators think the evidence demonstrates Kessler killed Cummings in the salon after attacking him there.
Kessler’s boots, which were discovered in her storage locker, were a particular focus for the prosecution. Dry blood specks were discovered on the boots, and she was last seen wearing them the day Cummings was last seen alive.
The defense has raised the possibility that Kessler and Cummings got into a fight and Kessler sustained injuries as a result of self-defense.
Pictures of the interiors of the two women’s autos were also displayed to the jury. The defense claimed during cross-examination that there should have been blood everywhere, even inside those cars, yet none was discovered.
Tuesday, Harrington spoke in court and described how authorities searched the trash Kessler threw in a dumpster at a landfill. According to Harrington’s testimony, the search teams were wearing ice vests and it was July 7, 2018, when the heat index hit 117 degrees.
For days, people searched the landfill. Although Cummings’ body was never located, the state claimed there was enough DNA evidence to show Kessler was responsible for Cummings’ murder. Without a body, the defense argued, there is no proof of a murder.
The Witnesses’ Statements
On Monday, the prosecution presented a timeline that highlighted Kessler’s purchases, online searches, and use of surveillance footage in the days preceding Cummings’ disappearance.
Several witnesses, including Ann Johnson, Cummings’ mother, gave their opening comments after that. According to Johnson’s testimony, her kid didn’t suddenly vanish out of nowhere. Johnson remarked, “She didn’t even acknowledge her birthday.”
Cummings’ disappearance was initially discovered when she failed to pick up her kids on Mother’s Day 2018.
On May 12, 2018, many witnesses claimed they visited Tangles Hair Salon and saw hairdressers Cummings and Kessler. This was Cummings’ last day of visibility. The following day, Mother’s Day, Cummings’ ex-husband, Jason Cummings, testified that Joleen Cummings failed to pick up their two young sons from him. “I was watching for her car to arrive. For approximately an hour, I waited. I made an effort to reach Joleen,” he said.
The state has made a ton of evidence public over the years, including images of blood discovered in the salon and surveillance footage showing Kessler driving Joleen Cummings’ SUV without her.
On surveillance footage, Kessler was also seen bringing trash bags from Tangles Hair Salon to a dumpster behind the structure. Additionally, a receipt reveals that Kessler purchased an electric knife, cleaning gloves, ammonia, garbage bags, and other items around the time Joleen Cummings vanished.
State prosecutors claimed in their opening statement that Kessler killed Cummings and that a significant amount of her DNA was left behind at the salon despite the fact that no body had ever been discovered. A portion of Joleen Cummings’ fingernail was discovered in a blue trash can by investigators. In its opening remarks, the prosecution also informed the jury that on April 30, 2018, Kessler searched the internet for “co worker guilty of killing co worker.”
According to the defense, this case is about proof and a lack thereof. The defense also admitted that Kessler and Joleen Cummings collaborated and that their disagreement persisted.
The Transferring of Kimber Kessler to a Different County
Kimberly Kessler was moved from the Nassau County jail to the Florida Women’s Reception Center in Marion County early on Friday morning to start her life sentence for the murder of Joleen Cummings, 34.
Judge James Daniel officially announced Kessler’s required sentence on Thursday. Following her release from jail, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper remarked that Kessler’s departure marked the beginning of a celebration for his deputies, who had been given cake and ice cream.
Authorities claim that Kessler beat jail staff with feces while he was incarcerated and went on a hunger strike for nearly two months.
The expenses for Kessler’s detention since her arrest more than three and a half years ago, according to Leeper, have been astounding.
Kessler’s move happened Friday morning before dawn when a van arrived at the sally port. The deputy made a “rock on” motion toward the adjacent cameras before shutting the door. A short while later, Kessler was inside the van as it drove away.
The Florida Department of Corrections estimates that there are around 1,200 female detainees at the Ocala reception center where Kessler was transported on Friday. Additionally, it states that the center offers chaplain programs, education, and mental health assistance.
By Saturday morning, her updated mugshot was online.
Kessler will go through a screening process to determine which prison she will serve her sentence in, according to attorney Gene Nichols, who is not connected to this case.
Kessler was found guilty of killing Cummings, a coworker at a hair salon in Nassau County, and was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole on Thursday.
At the beginning of her sentencing hearing on Thursday afternoon, Kessler was pushed into court shouting loudly and then immediately taken back out. She then observed the proceedings from a separate room.
Because she constantly shouted false accusations about a former member of her defense team being related to Cummings, Kessler, who has a history of outbursts during trials, was not present for even one day of her murder trial.
All of the Aliases Kimberly Kessler Have Used
- Kimberly L. Kessler
- Christina Melissa Brook (middle name also spelled Malissa)
- Christina Young
- Pamela Kleiber
- Melissa McKernan
- Melissa Losy
- Jennifer Marie Sybert
- Mia Stone
- Jenn Lee Sybert Allen
- Jennifer Seibring
- Jennifer Marie Allen
- Marie Sybert Stone
- Christa Brooks
- Pam Cleaver
- Pamela Kleiver
- Pamela Jean Kleiber
- Jenn Siever Allen
Where are the Past Locations Kimberly Kessler has Resided in?
Little Rock, Ark.
Mission and Overland Park, Ks.
Virginia Beach and Portsmouth, Va.
Wilmington, Arden, Smithfield and Asheville, N.C.
Boca Raton, Leesburg, Tampa, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Lakeland, Fernandina Beach, St. Augustine, Clearwater Beach, St. Petersburg, Oviedo, Fla.
Baytown and Waco, Texas
Butler and Pittsburgh, Pa.
Minneapolis and Rochester, Minn.