Competency exam for Kimberly Kessler set for Saturday

Kessler, 50, is charged with murdering former co-worker Joleen Cummings

By Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor, Brittany Muller - Reporter

Kimberly Kessler appears in court wearing a neon jumpsuit, indicating she is a high-risk prisoner, and wearing a medical mask over her mouth and nose a precaution because she refused to submit to a tuberculosis test.

YULEE, Fla. - Kimberly Kessler, the woman charged with murdering her former co-worker Joleen Cummings, is scheduled to undergo a mental competency exam Saturday to determine whether she's fit to stand trial. 

A judge ordered the psychological evaluation for Kessler, 50, to determine if she is competent to stand trial, as well as whether she meets the criteria for involuntary hospitalization. 

COURT DOCUMENT: Order for competency examination

The order for competency examination comes after the Kessler's attorney said at a court hearing earlier in May that a psychiatrist hired by the defense found their client incompetent.

But during that hearing, a prosecutor disputed that characterization of Kessler’s mental health, saying the state disagreed with the defense expert’s findings and planned to file a motion seeking a second opinion. Kessler's next hearing date was also pushed back to June 27.

Investigators suspect Kessler, who worked with Cummings at Tangles hair salon in Yulee, was the last person to see Cummings alive. The Nassau County mother of three was reported missing last May.

Kessler is charged with first-degree murder in Cummings’ death. More than a year later, the 34-year-old’s body has not been found, despite an extensive search at a Georgia landfill that turned up items of interest.

Following Cummings’ disappearance, her SUV was found parked outside a Home Depot. Kessler was arrested May 16 after investigators said they found footage showing her getting out of the vehicle.

Since then, the state has released reams of evidence in the case through the discovery process that suggest a struggle occurred at the salon and that steps were taken to dispose of that evidence.

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