What if no Joleen Cummings evidence is found in landfill?

Nassau County mother disappeared nearly 2 months ago

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

FOLKSTON, Ga. - Five days into an exhaustive search of a South Georgia landfill by a team of FBI agents and Nassau County deputies, there's no word on whether they've found anything connected with Joleen Cummings, the Nassau County mother missing since May 12.

The search of the Chesser Island Landfill in Charton County began Saturday and is scheduled to end Friday. The FBI has announced they would brief the media Friday. 

"Temperatures at the search site are very high, and every precaution is being taken to ensure the safety and well-being of all personnel," Amanda Warford Videll, FBI spokeswoman, said in a statement Wednesday. "This includes the use of cooling vests and cooling tents for use during frequent breaks. Medical professionals are also on hand at all times to monitor team members, and ensure their proper nourishment and hydration."

Sheriff Bill Leeper said Kimberly Kessler was seen on surveillance video throwing a white trash bag in a dumpster outside the hair salon where they both worked around the time Cummings disappeared. Contents of that dumpster ultimately made it to the Georgia landfill.

Although Kessler is only being held on a grand theft auto charge, Leeper has said that Cummings is presumed dead and Kessler is their prime suspect.

The probability for success in a landfill search isn’t that high, but because of the work of investigators to narrow down the time frame of when Kessler dumped the bag in the garbage, they believe there's a higher chance they'll find something.

Toni Chrabot, who retired after 20 years with the FBI, is familiar with the landfill. She was there when 7-year-old Somer Thompson's body was found there nearly nine years ago.

Chrabot said such searches are very difficult, but she has faith in these investigators.

Whether investigators do or don’t find evidence in the landfill, Chrabot said it's fortunate is that there are no statute of limitations on murder. 

"They have the suspect on tape, right, throwing things in the garbage can or in the dumpster," Chrabot said. "So really, if they can find one piece of evidence that further links her directly to the disappearance of Jolene, I think that’s a big success."

Whether investigators do or don’t find evidence in the landfill, she said it's fortunate that there are no statute of limitations on murder. Both Chrabot  and State Attorney Melissa Nelson said there can be a successful murder trial even if Cummings' body is never found.

"If they can find one shred of evidence, they still have the burden of proof -- proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this suspect was involved in or murdered Joleen Cummings," Chrabot said. "So if they can find something that was on the person, on Joleen‘s person that day, that would be a huge step in proving this case."

Aerials Wednesday of continuing search efforts at the Chesser Island Landfill.

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