Accused killer Kimberly Kessler was charged with murder on Thursday for the May disappearance of Florida hairstylist, Joleen Cummings. Authorities charged her after “overwhelming evidence” surfaced, including surveillance footage, and although the victim’s body hasn’t been recovered, a Florida-based lawyer said prosecutors do not necessarily need a body to win the case.
News4Jax reports that lawyer Rhonda Peoples Waters, who isn’t affiliated with Kessler’s case, provided her professional opinion on how authorities may be able to get a murder conviction despite Kessler’s reported refusal to disclose where Joleen’s body is.
Joleen was was last seen leaving the Tangles Hair Salon in Fernandina Beach at around 5 p.m. on May 12. Kessler, who went by the name Jennifer Marie Sybert, was Cumming’s co-worker at the salon and reportedly the last person to see her. When Cummings’ failed to pick her children up on the evening of May 13, her family reported her missing.
“(It’s) very likely (there will be) some type of circumstantial evidence based on the surveillance video found, (and) there may be some DNA evidence that is available, maybe through the car,” Waters told News4Jax. “The fact that this victim has just gone completely silent off the face of the earth, and the situation, we know she has minor children, is just so inconceivable that anything other than murder would’ve had her leaving her family like that.”
Kessler, who reportedly lived in numerous states while using at least 17 different aliases, is facing a first-degree premeditated murder charge, along with an auto theft charge.
Although she’s refused to discuss Cummings since her arrest, Sheriff Bill Leeper indicated the suspect messed with the “wrong people” when she moved to Duval County, Florida, according to ABC5.
“I’m not sure what she was hiding from, but this time she came to the wrong county and messed with the wrong people. Hopefully she will never have the opportunity to do anything like this ever again.”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, on May 14, authorities went to the salon to interview Kessler about Cummings’ disappearance, but Kessler left before they could talk to her. Another co-worker told police that Kessler pulled into the parking to report for work, but when she learned police wanted to speak with her, she drove away.
The following day, authorities found Cummings’ SUV abandoned close to a local Home Deport store in Duvall County. A surveillance camera reportedly captured Kessler parking Cummings’ vehicle a little after 1 a.m. on May 13. Kessler got out of the driver’s side of the SUV but Cummings never emerged. According to an affidavit, Kessler then walked to a nearby GATE gas station, off of FL-200 in Yulee, where she later got into a taxi cab.
The gas station attended reported that Kessler walked into the store and appeared “anxious” and “irritable.” According to the clerk, Kessler asked him to call a cab for her and talked about “the effects of meth” She seemed frightened.
“She didn’t want me to leave her alone, like when I tried to go back inside and go to work. I figured whatever happened it scared her.”
Police later retrieved surveillance footage of Kessler entering the store, wearing all black with her credit card up her sleeve (see video below).
The cab driver that picked Kessler up told authorities that he dropped off in a parking lot next to Woody’s, a local BBQ restaurant. The cab driver reportedly said Kessler “seemed like a nice woman,” according to CBS47.
On May 16, police located Kessler sleeping inside a black Kia Soul at a rest area off of Interstate 95 in St. John’s County. She was arrested and charged with grand theft auto, based on the footage of her driving the victim’s car. Police also noted she had scratches on one hand and one eye.
The first-degree murder charges came last week after authorities determined they had enough evidence for prosecution. Investigators, who believe Joleen is dead, continue to search her remains.
Anyone with information regarding the case is urged to contact the contact the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office at 904-548-4005 or First Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
[Feature Photo: Kimberly Kessler; Joleen Cummings/Nassau County Sheriff’s Office]