Texts, photos released in murder case against Kimberly Kessler

Co-worker charged after Nassau County woman disappeared in May

By Corley Peel - Reporter

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. - The State Attorney’s Office has released five more files of evidence in the murder case against Kimberly Kessler in the presumed death of Joleen Cummings.

Among the troves of evidence are pages of text messages between Kessler and Vickie Simmons, the co-owner of Tangles Hair Salon in Yulee, where Kessler and Cummings both worked. 

There are texts from the Mother’s Day weekend when Cummings, a 34-year-old mother of three, disappeared. In the texts, Simmons tells Kessler -- who at the time went by an alias name of Jennifer Sybert -- about Cummings' disappearance and asks if Cummings had mentioned birthday plans that weekend before she disappeared, and Kessler responds, not answering the question, but saying she hopes Cummings is OK.

Simmons asks Kessler again if Cummings told her about any plans she made. Kessler responds, saying Cummings didn’t tell her about any plans.

Simmons sent Kessler another text, saying that Cummings’ mother had filed a missing person’s report. She asked Kessler if she remembered what Cummings was wearing the last time they worked together. Simmons also spoke about how Cummings had recently filed an order of protection against her ex-boyfriend. Kessler stated she could only remember that Cummings might have been wearing dark-colored pants. 

Another text message shows Simmons implying that detectives want to speak with Kessler, and that it was starting to look bad that she hadn’t already spoken with them. Kessler claimed she had already spoken with detectives that morning, and then said she sends blessings and prayers. 

IMAGES: Text messages, evidence photos in Kimberly Kessler case

Among the files of evidence are photos, including of cleaning materials and boxes of foil found in a dumpster outside the Masonic Lodge in Fernandina Beach.

There are also photos taken along railroad tracks. Investigators took pictures of an American flag bandana tied on a tree limb. Evidence markers next to items found in the woods can also be seen in the photos. 

There are also images of things tested inside Cummings' car. Those images show a blue tarp and a large gray plastic lid with a ruler by a brown-colored substance splattered on it. 

The significance of the photos, and how they are connected to Cummings' death, is unclear. News4Jax contacted the State Attorney's Office to ask for more clarity on their significance, but had not heard back as of early Friday evening. 

Cummings disappeared last May and her body has not been found. Kessler was arrested a few days later on a charge of auto theft. Months later, when prosecutors felt they had enough evidence against her, Kessler was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder. 

Kessler has led more than a double life. According to Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper, she used at least 17 aliases across 33 cities in 14 states. She is being held in the Duval County jail and her next court date is March 21. 

Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.