NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Kimberly Kessler is facing a mandatory punishment of life in prison when she’s sentenced Thursday for the murder of her hair salon co-worker Joleen Cummings.
Kessler was found guilty in December of first-degree murder in the death of the Nassau County mother of three, who vanished in 2018. Her sentencing hearing is set for 1:30 p.m.
Kessler was also found guilty of theft because she was seen on surveillance dumping Cummings’ vehicle in a parking lot the night she was last seen alive.
The case faced years of legal delays, including Kessler being found not competent for trial before that decision was reversed. Kessler also has a history of disrupting court with outbursts.
News4JAX has also reported on her history of using fake names — 17 different names in total.
For Cummings’ mother, Ann Johnson, the verdict was the justice she had been praying for in the three and a half years following her 34-year-old daughter’s disappearance.
“We praise God, praise God, that we got the verdict and that it gives us some type of closure,” Johnson said shortly after the verdict was announced.
Cummings’ remains have never been found, and her mother pleaded with Kessler to reveal where they are so she can lay her daughter to rest.
“She is evil. She is evil in the flesh. And as soon as she is sentenced, I want her behind out of our jail,” Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said after the verdict. “It’s the state’s problem from now on.”
Leeper also said one person helped solve the case: Cummings.
“She left her blood and she left her DNA, and that’s what got her. That’s what helped us close this case out,” he said.
The state presented evidence that included blood found throughout Tangles Hair Salon, where Cummings and Kessler worked together; the video footage of Kessler shopping for supplies and driving and parking Cummings’ car; and Kessler’s internet searches, which included “Joleen Cummings no body no crime.”
Prosecutors also discussed the fact that the women did not get along, and they pointed to a tense interaction between the two women the day before Cummings disappeared. During closing arguments, prosecutors told the jury that evidence showed Kessler used scissors to kill Cummings before disposing of her body.
During the defense’s closing arguments, they again pointed to how the internet searches are out of context and how the purchasing of zip-ties are not consequential to the case. The defense attorney also pointed to bruising on Kessler’s legs, up her arm and shoulders. The defense said all of this shows that there was a violent conflict.