Competency exam ordered for Kimberly Kessler

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

By Colette DuChanois - Web producer

Kimberly Kessler and Joleen Cummings

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

The order, signed last week by a judge, said Kessler, 50, must be examined by an appointed and qualified expert doctor who will determine whether she is competent to stand trial, as well as whether she meets the criteria for involuntary hospitalization. 

The exam will take place June 15. 

COURT DOCUMENT: Order for competency examination

The order for competency examination comes after the defense for Kessler said at a court hearing earlier this month that a psychiatrist found their client incompetent for trial.

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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