Petition: 89-pound Kimberly Kessler could starve self to death

Kessler charged in 2018 murder of Joleen Cummings, who worked at Tangles Hair Salon

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Kimberly Kessler, the woman charged with murdering her coworker that was a stylist at a Nassau County hair salon, is refusing to eat and won’t accept any medical treatment, according to an emergency petition obtained Wednesday by News4Jax.

The petition, filed by Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper, says Kessler is trying to kill herself by starvation. Leeper asked a judge for guidance, saying jail medical staff members do not have the resources necessary to force-feed the woman, who on Sept. 25 weighed 89 pounds. When she was arrested in May 2018, Kessler weighed almost 200 pounds.

On Monday, she began refusing to allow Sheriff’s Office staff to measure her body weight.

Because a judge in March found Kessler competent to stand trial, the Sheriff’s Office is asking for a precedent-setting ruling from the judge. As written in the petition, petitioners have no lawful means to prevent Kessler’s “suicide by starvation” without intervention of the court.

The order further states: “Respondent Kessler, who has been determined to be competent by different authorities, appears determined to exercise her right to refuse to eat pursuant to Florida’s Constitutional Right to Privacy.”

Kessler had a third mental evaluation, the results of which were sealed. On Monday, the judge will hold a third mental competency hearing. Subpoenas went out Thursday to a nurse from Starting Point Behavioral in Yulee and Nassau CSO Captain Paula DeLuca, who’s second in command at the jail.

News4Jax spoke with Dr. Justin D’Arienzo, a forensic psychologist, about Kessler’s behavior.

“Someone that is decompensating and has mental health issues, it’s really hard for them to sustain a hunger strike like what she’s doing," D’Arienzo said.

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