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Joleen Cummings' mother says she's praying for 'justice to be served'

Kimberly Kessler has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder

Kimberly Kessler and Joleen Cummings
Kimberly Kessler and Joleen Cummings

YULEE, Fla. – The case against Kimberly Kessler, the woman charged with murder in the disappearance of her former co-worker, went before a judge yet again Tuesday morning.

Though Kessler was not in court, her attorney said his office is still awaiting the results of a psychiatric evaluation, which should become available sometime in the coming week.

Investigators believe Kessler is the last person to have seen Joleen Cummings alive. The 34-year-old hairstylist and mother of three was reported missing last May. Her body has not been found.

The judge passed the case off to the first week in May.

Anne Johnson, Cummings' mother, was in court, and she has attended every court appearance in the case since her daughter vanished. Afterward, she spoke with News4Jax and asked for prayers.

"We're coming up on May," Johnson said. "Asking for prayers without ceasing for my daughter's remains to be found. Praying without ceasing for justice to be served."

Kessler, who was initially arrested on an auto theft charge a few days after Cummings vanished, has pleaded not guilty to a count of first-degree murder in the case.

In court documents filed Wednesday, defense attorneys said they would not object to the release of Kessler’s jailhouse calls, a recorded interview and cell site maps from Cummings and Kessler.

The phone calls, recordings and cell phone evidence are part of the latest round of evidence to be made public in the high-profile case as part of the discovery process in the pre-trial proceedings.

Earlier this month, the State Attorney’s Office released hundreds of pages of documents and other evidence that provide a glimpse of what Kessler was doing in the hours before her arrest. 

That evidence included surveillance video and evidence photos taken inside Tangles Hair Salon, the Yulee business where the women worked, and items Kessler is accused of buying at Walmart.

Kessler’s attorneys have been fighting to keep certain pieces of evidence under wraps, arguing that their release could taint the potential jury pool and jeopardize their client’s right to a fair trial.

Images released so far showed evidence markers and a discarded shoe in a wooded area behind the salon and an unsettling amount of blood found on the salon’s walls, chairs, cabinet and sink

There was also blood on a bleach bottle and a mop. A blacklight photo of the mop shows blood that showed up in mop strokes on the floor after crime scene investigators applied the chemical luminol.

Also released was a Walmart receipt for 30-gallon trash bags, an electric knife and a large bottle of ammonia. Investigators said surveillance video showed Kessler using the store’s self-checkout lanes.

In addition, video showed Kessler’s Kia Soul leaving the Walmart. She and the vehicle were also seen at a nearby carwash. Investigators said $1,600 cash was found in her car at the time of her arrest.

Evidence also suggests a confrontation between the two women on May 9, just days before Cummings’ disappearance. A co-worker said Cummings mentioned wanting to look into Kessler’s background.

Cummings’ SUV was located outside a Home Depot after her family reported her missing. Though her body has not been found, investigators said they’ve found several notable items at a Georgia landfill.

The case has attracted national attention in part because it hasn't been solved, but also because authorities said Kessler, who went by Jennifer Sybert, has used 17 different aliases over the years.

About the Author:

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