Suspect in stylist's disappearance pleads not guilty to stealing SUV

Co-worker of Joleen Cummings not charged in disappearance

YULEE, Fla. – A woman investigators suspect was involved in the disappearance of a Nassau County mother entered a not guilty plea Thursday morning on a separate charge.

Kimberly Kessler, who was arrested under the name Jennifer Sybert, is the prime suspect in the disappearance of Joleen Cummings, who hasn't been seen in nearly a month. 

Kessler was charged with grand theft auto after investigators said they found surveillance video showing her dumping Cummings' SUV near a Home Depot in Nassau County. The video was taken hours after Cummings, a 34-year-old mother of three, was last seen at Tangles Hair Salon, where she worked with Kessler.

Deputies said Kessler was the last person to see Cummings, who was reported missing last month after she failed to pick up her children from her ex-husband on Mother's Day. Investigators have since said Cummings is presumed dead.

RELATED: Ex-boyfriend no longer person of interest, sheriff says

The case took an even more disturbing turn when Sheriff Bill Leeper announced that Kessler, who was herself reported missing several years ago from another state, has lived in 33 cities in 14 states under 17 names since 1996.

At the time of her arrest, she had been using the name Jennifer Sybert. 

It was under that name that she entered a written not guilty plea Thursday to the grand theft auto charge. She waived her court appearance. Her next court date will be June 28.

She has not been charged in Cummings' disappearance, but Leeper indicated that more charges are likely when evidence clears a crime lab.

Cummings' mother, who has made tearful pleas for any information that would help investigators bring her family closure, declined to comment after Thursday's court proceedings.

UNCUT: Missing woman's mom makes tearful plea for closure

Several of Cummings' friends told News4Jax the community just wants answers about what happened to the beloved stylist.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.