NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Judge James Daniel again gave Kimberly Kessler a chance to participate in the courtroom during her murder trial -- an effort which lasted less than a minute Tuesday morning.
As soon as the judge started speaking with Kessler, she cut him off, saying, “No, I refuse this counsel. I always have.” He tried to say more, and she said, “It’s injustice, and you know it. Jordan Beard is Joleen’s cousin” — an accusation about one of her former defense attorneys that has been proven untrue.
Kessler was again taken to a holding room, where she can see and hear the trial but can’t interfere. Daniel said she can ask to be brought back into the courtroom at any time.
Once Kessler was removed, one of her attorneys again requested a mental health evaluation, which the judge denied.
Day 2 of testimony and evidence focused on the inside of Tangles Hair Salon, and Kessler’s storage unit. Mark Murphy with the Nassau County Sheriff’s office took the stand, explaining the blood found inside Tangles where investigators believe Kessler attacked and killed Joleen Cummings.
The defense asked the detective if Kessler and Cummings’ blood was found in the salon. Murphy said yes. The defense is likely trying to prove to the jury that the DNA found was from more than one person.
The defense suggested that its possible Kessler and Cummings got into a fight and Kessler’s injuries were caused by her protecting herself. This would cause doubt that this was premeditated murder.
A senior crime analyst took the stand and said she went to the storage unit number 17 owned by Kimberly Kessler. The analyst testified that Joleen Cummings’ blood was found on Kimberly Kessler’s boots seized from her storage unit. Kessler was seen on video wearing the boots the day Cummings disappeared.
A witness that works for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office took the stand to explain what she saw on Kimberly Kessler after she was taken into custody. Images were shown to the jury of injuries Kessler had when she was found at 4 a.m. at a rest stop. Many of the photos were of Kessler’s face and her hands that were covered in bandages. Later photos showed the cuts on her hand after the bandages were removed.
Lead detective Wayne Harrington returned to the witness stand on day 2 and explained how detectives went to a landfill to search the garbage Kessler dumped in the dumpster. Harrington testified it was July 7th, the heat index reached 117 degrees, and the search teams wore ice vests.
The landfill search continued for days. Cummings’ body was not found, but the state suggests there enough DNA evidence to prove Kessler killed the mother of three. The defense says without a body there’s no proof of a murder.
This trial appears to be moving quickly. Prosecutors began the trial with a timeline Monday in the Nassau County Courthouse, highlighting 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.
Opening statements were followed by several witnesses, including Anne Johnson, Cummings’ mother.
Johnson testified that it wasn’t her daughter’s personality to just disappear.
“She didn’t even acknowledge her birthday,” Johnson said.
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 hairdressers 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.
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.
In Court: Kimberly Kessler Murder Trial - State: Who was the last person to see Joleen Cummings?— Jenese Harris (@WJXTJenese) December 6, 2021
Investigator: Kimberly Kessler.
Prior to taking the stand, Joleen Cummings’ mother posted in the “Joleen Jensen Cummings Recovery and Prayer Page.” She also sent News4JAX this message: