Attorneys want to know what weapon was used to kill Joleen Cummings

Kimberly Kessler indicted on 1st-degree murder charge in Cummings’ death, whose remains haven’t been found

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – It’s been more than three years since Joleen Cummings, a Nassau County mother, was last seen. And although she’s presumed dead, her remains still haven’t been located.

Her former coworker, Kimberly Kessler, is charged with first-degree murder. Previous court documents have stated that investigators believe Cummings, 34, may have been killed inside the Tangles Hair Salon in Yulee, where they both worked.

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

Now, a motion has been filed, requesting a “more definite statement of particulars.”

The motion, filed on behalf of the public defender’s office Monday, is asking the court for a more definite written statement of particulars, specifying what weapon was used in the murder.

The court motion notes that Kessler has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge, but adds that the indictment fails to specify with what weapon the defendant committed the alleged homicide.

“Without the specific identification of a weapon used in the purported homicide, Defendant (Kessler) cannot adequately prepare for the defense of these charges,” the motion reads.

Attorney Gene Nichols, not associated with the case, says attorneys could be trying to build their defense -- especially if a judge grants the motion and the state is unable to say what weapon was used.

“The defense will then use that as part of whatever defense they will put forth, that there is not enough evidence to convict because we don’t even know if and what type of weapon was used in this case,” Nichols explained.

Nichols added that the state is not obligated to reveal every detail in its case before the trial.

“The government is going to put on every bit of evidence that they possibly have an in a case like this,” Nichols said. “They will put forth in front of a jury everything that they know that could be relevant in this case to establish the guilt of the defendant.”

Cummings has been missing since May 2018, and although her remains haven’t been located, investigators said several notable items were found at a Georgia landfill.

Apart from that, records provided to defense attorneys show that detectives and lead the prosecutor found bloodstains on a chair in the salon, the wall near a 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.

The public defender’s office also filed an additional motion asking the court to require the state to disclose statements Kessler made in jail calls “that are relevant to the offense charged, together with the name and address of each witness to the statements.”

The motion to disclose the statements states that more than 600 jail calls have been provided to the defense in discovery and that “by far,” most of the statements recorded are “irrelevant to the offense charged.”

“By providing recordings of over 1,000 conversations the defendant has had, without designating those that are relevant to the charge, and without giving the name and address of the person who heard each statement, the state has place upon the defendant the daunting task of listening to hours and hours of phone calls in order to guess which few contain statements that the state considers relevant,” the motion reads.

“What the defense is arguing there is that the state has some form of obligation not only to hand over a disk with hundreds of phone calls, but to tell the defense -- what are you planning on using,” Nichols said.

Nichols said the state did the right thing by entering all of the phone calls into evidence.

“So there’s not the suggestion that some of them were not provided at a later date to give her an argument to be made,” he said.

Nichols thinks the state could agree to pinpoint the calls they may use to prevent any more delays with this case going to trial. If not, the public defender’s office could be tasked with finding all of the people she made those calls with and interviewing them.


About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident & broadcast news producer who's been reporting & writing for nearly a decade here at The Local Station.

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.