Murder suspect searched Joleen Cummings' name 457 times
Kimberly Kessler charged after Nassau County woman disappeared in May
YULEE, Fla. – Discovery material released Wednesday by the State Attorney's Office reveals video showing the woman charged in the murder of a missing Nassau County hairstylist laughing and joking while speaking with investigators.
Kimberly Kessler is charged with first-degree premeditated murder after the disappearance of Joleen Cummings. Kessler is believed to be the last person who saw the 34-year-old mother of three on May 12, 2018, at the Tangles Hair Salon in Yulee where they both worked. Cummings' body has not been located.
At a hearing Thursday, Kessler's lawyer asked that her client have a mental evaluation before she is prosecuted. The judge would rule on that next month once a formal request is filed.
The newly released files contain photos, videos, interviews and other documents, including a log showing that searches made on Kessler's iPhone included "coworker guilty of murder missing person body not found" and 457 searches containing Cummings' name over 48 hours.
Her browsing history revealed she also searched for a list of female murderers in Florida on the website ‘Murderpedia.’
Other evidence included photos taken after her arrest showing bruises on Kessler's hands and face.
Surveillance images taken days before Kessler's arrest as she visited a Gate gas station show what appear to be the same scratches on her face. The surveillance photos were taken on May 12.
Also captured on video were the moments Kessler spoke with a detective about the abrasions on her body.
Kessler: "Guess what that's from?"
Kessler: "Bed bug bite like a month ago."
Detective: "How did you get those?"
Kessler: "I had bed bugs. I've had them for years."
Detective: "In your car?"
Detective: "How did they get in your car?"
Kessler: "At the shelters I stayed at. They hitchhike everywhere. People who have them in their house probably have them in their cars because I took them from the homeless shelter to my car. Sometimes they leave bruises, sometimes they leave just a red scar."
During an interrogation with detectives, Kessler is seen flinching as investigators clipped her fingernails, taking them as evidence. An interaction was also recorded as a detective asked Kessler about her handcuffs.
Detective: "Are those (handcuffs) hurting you?"
Kessler: "No, they feel great. You can pull on them tighter if you want. Whatever you want to do. I'm at your mercy so have as much fun as you'd like."
An interview with Kessler's mother, Connie, was also released. The mom became emotional when asked why her daughter disappeared from Pennsylvania in 2004 and why her daughter created numerous aliases.
"I imagine she felt like she wasn’t getting any support from me and at the time. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what the heck to do," she said.
A conversation St. Johns County inmate Brenda Brown had with detectives was also released. Brown said Kessler told her that detectives would figure everything out once they obtained her fingerprints. She spoke about some of her conversations with Kessler in jail.
"She said she had a boyfriend who was a bank robber, and she was wanted by the FBI and that she had five aliases and that she was going to write a book one day," Brown told a detective.
UNCUT: Interview with Brenda Brown
Also among the discovery material was an interview with Tim Barnes, Kessler's ex-boyfriend, who investigators said she dated in the 1990s while she lived in Pennsylvania. Barnes told detectives Kessler killed his cat with a shotgun. He also said he and his father were assaulted by Kessler.
"She stabbed me in the chest. She bit my dad in the leg," Barnes told detectives in a phone interview. "I thought she'd been in jail for something violent a long time ago."
UNCUT: Interview with Tim Barnes
Documents also showed that detectives traveled to Pennsylvania, where Kessler grew up. She left in 2004, claiming to be running from an abusive relationship. One childhood friend told an investigator Kessler used to run with a popular crowd before her personality changed. After that, everyone was afraid of her.
"It was just like one day something snapped. It seemed to be over summer break if I remember correctly. One school year she was great and the next she was this different person," the unidentified friend said.
Screenshot of partial log of searches on Kesslers' iPhone
Cummings' body has not been found, but Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper and prosecutors feel like they have enough evidence to secure a conviction.
Kessler, who Leeper said has lived in 33 cities in 14 states under 17 names since 1996, is being held in the Duval County jail without bond. She is scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning.
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