Court records: Blood found in salon where Joleen Cummings was last seen

Kimberly Kessler accused in killing of co-worker whose body was never found

By Corley Peel - Reporter, Frank Powers - Assignment manager

YULEE, Fla. - Investigators believe a Nassau County hairstylist and mother who disappeared last May may have been killed inside Tangles Salon in Yulee, according to court documents obtained by News4Jax.

Records provided to the defense attorney for the woman accused of killing Joleen Cummings  show that detectives and the lead prosecutor found bloodstains on a chair in the salon, the wall near the reception desk, a wooden display stand, a signboard, a vacuum cleaner leaning against the wall, another chair and a display rack next to the desk.

Detectives swabbed the stains on the wall and one of the chairs and they tested positive for blood. The documents obtained Thursday don't say whose blood it was, but investigators wrote the salon was a "crime scene."

Cummings' body was never found, but Kimberly Kessler, a co-worker at Tangles and the last person to See Cummings alive, was indicted for murder in the 34-year-old's death, based at least partly on this evidence.

Documents also show that deputies recovered a blue tote bag that Kessler was seen on surveillance video throwing in the woods behind a restaurant. It also tested positive for blood.

Kessler’s car was tested for blood, as well. The documents show that some locations tested negative, but the results for other test locations are redacted in the documents obtained by News4Jax.

Investigators never recovered Cummings' phone, but they have downloaded data from two cellphones Kessler owned. 

An inmate at the Duval County jail, where Kessler has been locked up since late May, told investigators that Kessler said, “Her mother would sell her to men,” and made voodoo dolls from her hair to punish her.

The documents also quote Kessler's ex-husband in Arizona telling investigators that she stabbed him with scissors. He said Kessler was “a stripper … and had a temper.”

Prosecutors also talked to a childhood friend of Kessler, Kimberly McCall, who said she received a call in the 1990s from Kessler, bragging about “busting her brother’s teeth out” with a baseball bat.

"I was horrified to hear that because she always said how much she hated her brother, but I chalked it up as more of a normal childhood pesky little brother type of thing," McCall told News4Jax by phone Thursday. “She does not need to walk the streets again."

McCall talked with News4Jax about growing up in Pennsylvania with Kessler. 

"We rode horses all over the countryside together and we would do things like go skating," McCall said. "There was nothing that I can think of that was off or strange about her."

Kimberly Kessler is pictured on the right, next to her childhood friend, Kimberly McCall. (Photo courtesy: Kimberly McCall)

While speaking with detectives, McCall said, Kessler reached out to her and her cousin, David Trempus, on Facebook under one of her alias names, "Mia Stone." 

According to the documents, Trempus, who lives in Texas, was also interviewed by detectives. He said Kessler randomly reached out to him on Facebook last year under her alias name "Mia Stone."

“She was really persistent on meeting me and come the very next day, she was here in San Antonio," Trempus told News4Jax by phone Thursday. 

Trempus claimed Kessler showed up in her black Kia, wearing her salon clothes.

“She told me how she could help out and she wanted to move up here and wanted me to marry her," he said, noting that he ultimately denied Kessler's proposal and ended conversation with her. 

Detectives informed Trempus that her name wasn’t really "Mia Stone," and that Kessler was accused in Cummings' disappearance. He said he then learned he grew up with Kessler in Pennsylvania and his cousin, McCall, was one of Kessler’s childhood friends.

VIDEO: Texas man interviewed by detectives, court records show

"It was shocking, you know, that we knew that person," Trempus said. 

According to the state attorney's office, Kessler's next court date is Feb. 28. It's unclear whether she will be there. 

Timeline of young mother's disappearance

Cummings' SUV was found parked outside a Home Depot after she was reported missing by her family when she failed to show up to pick up her children from her ex-husband.

Kessler was arrested May 16, 2018, and charged with grand theft auto after investigators said they found surveillance video showing her getting out of Cummings' vehicle.

Kessler, who Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said has lived in 33 cities in 14 states under 17 names since 1996, is being held without bond.

weeklong search in June at a South Georgia landfill was prompted by surveillance video that authorities said showed Kessler appearing to put a white trash bag into a dumpster about the time of Cummings' disappearance.

After sifting through 6.6 million pounds of trash at the Chesser Island Landfill, the FBI and the Sheriff's Office announced that they had found several items of interest in Cummings' disappearance

Kessler has been held in the Duval County jail since she went on a hunger strike in the Nassau County jail. She continued to be held in Jacksonville when she was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder in September and will stay in custody in the Duval County jail when there are not hearings scheduled in her case.

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