Witnesses take stand in Kimberly Kessler trial, including mom of Joleen Cummings

Kessler charged in death of Nassau County salon co-worker

Joleen Cummings never would have abandoned her family. That's what her mother told a jury in the trial of the woman accused of killing Cummings.

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Prosecutors showed a timeline Monday in the Nassau County Courthouse, highlighting Kimberly Kessler’s purchases and internet searches, as well as surveillance video, in the days surrounding 34-year-old mother of three Joleen Cummings’ disappearance in 2018.

Kessler is accused of murdering Cummings, her co-worker at Tangles Hair Salon. Cummings’ body has not been found.

Opening statements in Kessler’s trial began at 8:30 a.m. Monday, followed by several witnesses, including Anne Johnson, Cummings’ mother, Anne Johnson.

Johnson testified that it wasn’t her daughter’s personality to just disappear.

“She didn’t even acknowledge her birthday,” Johnson said.

Kessler charged in death of Nassau County salon co-worker Joleen Cummings

Cummings was first reported missing in May 2018, after she never showed up to pick up her children on Mother’s Day.

Multiple witnesses testified that they went to Tangles Hair Salon on May 12, 2018, and saw hair dressers Cummings and Kessler. It’s the last day Cummings was seen. Cummings’ ex-husband, Jason Cummings, testified that Joleen Cummings never picked up their two young sons from him the next day, which was Mother’s Day.

“I was waiting for her to pull up. I waited about an hour. I tried to contact Joleen,” he said.

Over the years, the state has released a slew of evidence, including photos of blood found in the salon and surveillance footage of Kessler in Joleen Cummings’ SUV, without her.

Kessler was also seen on surveillance video carrying trash bags from Tangles Hair Salon to a dumpster behind the building.

And a receipt shows Kessler bought cleaning gloves, ammonia, trash bags and an electric knife around the same time Joleen Cummings disappeared.

Kessler charged in death of Nassau County salon co-worker Joleen Cummings

RELATED: Texts, photos released in murder case | Kessler searched Joleen Cummings’ name 457 times | Suspect bought zip ties before Joleen Cummings disappeared

State prosecutors opened by saying Joleen Cummings was killed by Kessler, and though a body was never found, there was a large amount of Joleen Cummings’ DNA left behind at the salon. Investigators found a blue bin that contained a partial fingernail of Joleen Cummings. Prosecutors also told the jury in opening statements that Kessler search the internet on April 30, 2018, for “co worker guilty of killing co worker.”

The defense said this case is about evidence and a lack of evidence. The defense also acknowledged that Kessler and Joleen Cummings worked together and had an ongoing conflict.

The trial is expected to have unusual circumstances.

Kessler was brought into the courtroom before opening statements and had another outburst similar to those heard in previous hearings.

“I refuse the public defender’s office. They appointed Jordan Beard, Joleen Cummings’ cousin, as my public defender,” Kessler said, making an accusation about a former defense attorney that has been proven to be untrue.

The judge asked her to stop, and when she refused, authorities took her out of the room. The judge said she was taken to a holding room, where she could see and hear the trial but couldn’t interfere.

Nassau County Judge James Daniel presides over the Kimberly Kessler murder trial. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Prior to taking the stand, Joleen Cummings’ mother posted in the “Joleen Jensen Cummings Recovery and Prayer Page.” She also sent News4JAX this message:

Court will continue Tuesday morning.

About the Authors:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.

Veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor