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Judge dismisses Kimberly Kessler emergency petition

Kessler charged in 2018 murder of Joleen Cummings, co-worker at Tangles Hair Salon

Deputies state Kessler stripped naked and smeared feces on cell window.
Deputies state Kessler stripped naked and smeared feces on cell window.

YULEE, Fla. – A petition filed a week ago by the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office requested guidance from a judge, saying Kimberly Kessler, the woman charged with murdering a Nassau County hairstylist in 2018, was refusing to eat and wouldn’t accept any medical treatment.

On Tuesday, News4Jax learned that the trial judge dismissed the petition.

The Sheriff’s Office said in the petition to the trial judge that Kessler is trying to kill herself by starvation. Kessler has invoked her constitutional right to privacy. The Sheriff’s Office told the judge that jail medical staff didn’t have the resources to force feed Kessler.

Because the judge in March found Kessler competent to stand trial, the Sheriff’s Office was asking for a precedent-setting ruling from the judge.

The State Attorney’s Office responded, saying that since Kessler was declared competent, the petition should be denied. The State Attorney’s Office said even if the judge found Kessler was not competent for prosecution that the ruling would not overrule her constitutional right to privacy and to refuse medical treatment.

Kessler is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Joleen Cummings, a 34-year-old mother of three.

During a Monday competency hearing, Kessler was removed from view after she yelled an expletive about the public defender’s office. On the Zoom hearing, Kessler could still be heard yelling and cursing in the background. Nassau jail Capt. Paula DeLuca testified that Kessler has refused to eat and that her weight has dropped from 196 pounds to 74.

Background on the case

Cummings has been missing since May 2018, and although her body has not been found, investigators said they found several notable items at a Georgia landfill.

Court documents state that investigators believe the hairstylist may have been killed inside Tangles Hair Salon in Yulee. Records provided to the defense attorney 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.

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.

Kessler is believed to be that last person to see Cummings alive.

The case has attracted national attention in part because authorities said Kessler, who went by Jennifer Sybert, has used 17 aliases over the years.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident, journalist and experienced broadcast news producer with a passion for classic and exotic cars.