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'You're fake!' | Former salon manager testifies about conflict between accused killer and missing mom

On day two of Kimberly Kessler's murder trial, jurors learn about extensive blood evidence found inside the hair salon, attesting to a violent encounter.

YULEE, Fla. — “You’re fake!” Joleen Cummings told the woman now accused of her murder. “Go away, I don’t like you!”

According to Anh Morgan, former manager at Tangles hair salon in Nassau County, those were among the last words she heard Cummings say to accused killer Kimberly Kessler before Cummings vanished in May 2018.

Morgan was the last witness called on day two of the high-profile murder trial. Testifying via Zoom, she described the relationship between the two hairstylists as contentious.

She said Cummings confided she planned to “look up” Kessler, who was then using the alias Jennifer Sybert, to find out who she really was.

Morgan’s testimony followed a day of extensive photographic and blood evidence suggesting a violent confrontation preceding Cummings’ disappearance. 

A St. Johns County crime scene investigator testified about photographs she took of the cuts, gouges and abrasions on Kessler’s face and hands at the time of her arrest. The agent testified Kessler told her she attempted to seal some of her wounds with Super Glue.

Jurors also heard about the extensive blood evidence collected inside Tangles salon belonging to both women, as well as the discovery of Cummings’ blood on numerous items, including Kessler’s combat boots and hair cutting shears.

Kessler herself was not in court. She was removed, as usual, after a brief morning appearance due to her ongoing disruptive behavior. Kessler’s attorneys continue to argue she is incompetent to stand trial, but Circuit Judge James Daniel maintains she more calculating than incompetent. In fact, today he said he thought she was getting better.

“It’s the same behavior. It may actually be better over the past several months," he said. "She’s now eating regularly and is no longer doing some of the things she was in jail.”

Daniels was referring to the near fatal hunger strike Kessler engaged in for several months, plummeting from about 200 pounds at the time of her arrest to just 74 pounds at one point -- requiring hospitalization. Kessler was also criminally charged for spreading feces around her jail cell and throwing feces at jail guards.

While that behavior seems to have diminished, Kessler remains out of the courtroom. She has access to a Zoom feed of court, but when Judge Daniel asked a deputy Tuesday if she pays attention to proceedings, he responded “not at all.” Instead, he said Kessler moves her chair into a bathroom area, as far away as she can get from the video screen.

Court resumes at 8:30 am Wednesday. Prosecutors say they plan to rest their case around noon. 

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