Kimberly Kessler asks about death penalty in jailhouse call

Woman accused of killing co-worker Joleen Cummings last year

By Corley Peel - Reporter, Colette DuChanois - Web producer, Frank Powers - Assignment manager

Jailhouse phone calls that Kimberly Kessler, the woman charged with killing her co-worker, Joleen Cummings, made after she was arrested last year were obtained Friday by News4Jax.

Kessler, 50, discusses jail conditions in a couple of the calls, all of which appear to be with her mother, but in the first one, she asks about the death penalty.

Kessler: “Florida and Texas, are those the only two states with the death penalty?”
Caller: “I don’t know, I haven’t done the research on that. You might want to YouTube that and get back to me on it.”
Kessler: “Yeah, I don’t think I’d want to know and then tell you bad news. I thought someone said they weren’t doing that anymore, and they shouldn’t do it anymore because the dumb***** get everything wrong."

The release of the calls comes ahead of Mother's Day weekend, which marks one year since Cummings, a 34-year-old mother of three, disappeared. 

Investigators suspect Kessler, who worked with Cummings at Tangles Hair Salon in Yulee, was the last person to see Cummings alive. 

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. She was booked into the Nassau County jail, where she went on a hunger strike that prompted her to later be moved to the Duval County jail.

It's unclear from which jail the calls were made from, but Kessler complains about the treatment in the jail in two of them.

“My attorney told me he has no control over them. They mistreat me. That’s just how it is, basically. He didn’t say it exactly in those words. That’s my interpretation of it. So I’m surprised they let me call you. Perhaps they were looking to listen to a fascinating conversation in between us. I don’t know why they let me call you, but they did. He said they should let me call him whenever I want, and they didn’t, they didn’t let me do it. They make excuses, like, ‘Oh we’re busy,’ then shut the door and walk away. It’s kind of funny they keep me in solitary confinement, like, it’s a bad thing," Kessler said with a laugh in one jailhouse call. "It’s heaven, girl.”

In another call, Kessler, who went by Jennifer Sybert, talks about wanting out of jail. Authorities said she has used 17 aliases over the years.

Kessler: “Bail me out under my name that I’m going under, which is Jennifer Marie Sybert. And then eventually everything’s going to come together, but, with my real name Kim Kessler. But you know, go about it, jump through the hoops.”
Person on the other end of the call: “OK. You said bail you out under Jennifer?"
Kessler: “Yeah, because that’s how they arrested me under. Until the FBI corrects it, it’s going to be Jennifer.”
Caller: “The FBI? Oh, my God, they won’t correct.“
Kessler: “They will. You just put the money up as Jennifer Marie Sybert. I gave you my Social, by date of birth, the name, my name my alias or whatever that I’ve been living under for 19 years. You’re all set.”
Caller: “Oh, my God. Are you warm, sleeping all right? They gave you a blanket?”
Kessler: “Of course not. It’s terrible. I’m in jail. It’s very, very bad."
Caller: “It would be nice if they treated you the way they would want to be treated.”
Kessler: “Well, if you really want to help, come and get me out. So, that would be great.”

Kessler is now charged with first-degree murder in Cummings’ death. The day after she was indicted on Sept. 7, she discusses how unexpected the indictment was during a call.

“I didn’t expect it to come, but I was, I guess it was always in the back of my mind because I knew they were crazy like that because they did it to me before. I don’t know. I guess I got too trusting, like, I thought their BS was over. Tom Townsend (her lawyer) told me today that I was on the front page of the newspaper, I’m all over the news. He said they had a bunch of people call the public defender’s office -- Newsline or Dateline called, a bunch of entities or whatever, like news channels, were calling today. I was (like), 'Really?’ He said, 'They were all calling. You’re all over the newspaper, all over the news.' And I was, like, 'Really?’” she can be heard saying in the call.

The caller later asks, "Is there absolutely nothing going on in the world?"

Kessler replies, “I say it's because of the illuminati. I think that her people are definitely f***** seriously involved in it. So that is what is happening, so I’ve got the illuminati on my a**.”

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.

In one of the jailhouse calls, Kessler complains about the searches.

“They gave me a piece of paper that says they, for the search warrant for my car, like five days after they searched my car and confiscated the car, and they never gave me a search warrant for searching my storage unit, ever. They just did it. They said they had a search warrant, but I have yet to see it," Kessler said in that call. 

According to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement DNA analysis that was among evidence released last month by the State Attorney's Office, blood found on one of Kessler's boots in her storage unit was an almost certain match with that of Cummings. Investigators also found one of Cummings' fingernails in a blue bin in the storage unit.

Last week, the defense for Kessler said a psychiatrist found their client incompetent for trial. Her next hearing date was pushed back to June 27. 

One year after Cummings' disappearance, her body has not been found, despite an extensive search at a Georgia landfill that turned up items of interest.

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