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Kimberly Kessler murder trial day 3: Defense rests its case

Kimberly Kessler is charged with the murder of 34-year-old Joleen Cummings, who was reported missing in May of 2018. Cummings' body has never been found.

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. — Both the prosecution and defense rested their case Wednesday on day three of testimony in the murder trial of a Nassau County woman accused of killing her Yulee hair salon co-worker.

Kimberly Kessler is charged with the murder of 34-year-old Joleen Cummings, who was reported missing in May of 2018. Cummings' body has never been found.

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.

The Judge says Kessler will be allowed back into the courtroom if she asks the bailiff and does not pose any future distractions.

Click here for a recap of Tuesday's testimony.

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

Warning: Some descriptions of evidence below may include graphic content that may be disturbing to readers.

Times below are approximate.


12:45 p.m.: Prosecutors didn't mention a search by Kessler on May 6, 2018 for "what is charge for throwing excrement in jail" -- but she did pick up this very charge while at the Nassau County Jail.

11:31 a.m.: The judge says they will let the jury go shortly and hold their charge conference today. Closing arguments will begin tomorrow morning.

11:24 a.m.: Defense shows a text message exchange between Kessler and the owner of Tangles. Kessler texted that she found a bag with drugs/residue and wants to turn it in. Defense then rests its case. 

11:16 a.m.: Defense is now presenting documents from Hillsborough County into evidence regarding an injunction for protection for Kessler. Defense has previously said Kessler is a domestic violence victim and used aliases when she was on the run from her abusive ex. 

11:13 a.m.: The defense's first witness is NCSO Detective Harrington. The defense is questioning Harrington about a bag of a chalky white substance that was not tested. Harrington says he cannot say whether it was a controlled substance without testing. He says the owner of the salon handed it over to NCSO.

11:06 a.m.: The defense begins presenting its case.

10:52 a.m.: The judge is asking Kimberly Kessler if she wants to testify. She shakes her head no and then begins shouting, "Jordan Beard is Joleen Cummings' cousin!" She can be heard shouting down the hallway.

10:14 a.m.: Defense is now asking for a judgement of acquittal -- a standard request after the prosecution rests its case -- saying the evidence was insufficient. This happens with the jury out of the room. 

10:10 a.m.: State rests its case against Kimberly Kessler.

9:58 a.m.: The trial is on hold for a sidebar with attorneys and the court reporter. The jury is sent out to get a break while the attorneys figure something out.

9:18 a.m.: Rose says over the next few days after Cummings disappeared, Kessler's phone showed searches for Tangles hair salon, Joleen Cummings and opened articles about Cummings.

9:11 a.m.: Rose says Kessler searched on Murderpedia for a list of female murderers by county and Florida female murderers days before the last time anyone saw Cummings.

9:09 a.m.: Rose describes more of Kessler's search history just over a week before Cummings disappeared, including:

  • How to use a tourniquet
  • Images of Joleen
  • Information about meth addicts

On May 8, 2018, Kessler created an account on Pinterest and searched for autopsy, cadavers and post-mortem changes, Rose says.

9:02 a.m.: Witness five is Charity Rose, a detective with the Nassau County Sheriff's Office. She says she reviewed Kessler's phone search history. On April 30, 2018, she says Kessler searched another hair salon, then "coworker guilty of murder. Missing person body not found," then searched her name. This was 12 days before Cummings disappeared. Rose says Kessler's search history showed she searched for herself on Bing and Facebook. She says the history also showed a job search and for cities friendly to homeless. Kessler was homeless at the time. She also searched "meth addict Joleen Nassau County." 

8:54 a.m.: Witness four is Sgt. Phillip Livingston with Nassau County Sheriff's Office. He says he performed an extraction of two cellphones found in Kessler's car. He says there were 14 text messages between Cummings and Kessler, with their last contact in April 2018.

8:47 a.m.: Next witness is Detective Harrington. He says he got DNA samples from Kessler's mother and son to compare her DNA. He says he found a black and white shirt at the landfill and believes Cummings may have been wearing a black and white shirt.

8:42 a.m.: Next witness is Ron Stafford, assistant manager of West Marine who says he had his hair cut at Tangles Salon by "Jennifer" (Kessler's alias). He says Kessler went into West Marine and purchased "long, heavy duty" 24-inch zip ties on May 5, 2018.

8:36 a.m.: The state's first witness is Michelle Money (spelling of last name is unclear), who works at the storage unit where Kessler had a unit. She says Kessler asked her about security and said she had seen some homeless people digging through the trash. That conversation took place on May 7, 2018. On cross-examination, the defense hammers down on security at the storage facility. The witness says it is not unusual for a customer to ask about security of their storage.

8:24 a.m.: The defense again renews its motion to review Kessler's competency. The judge shakes his head and somewhat laughs, saying Kessler has already been analyzed and nothing has changed.

8:23 a.m.: Judge Daniel gives Kessler another chance to be present in the courtroom today. He asks if she is ready to begin, and she says "no." The judge then tells her this is likely the last day that prosecutors will be presenting evidence against her, and she responds "Sure, I can stay up here and say what I want, when I want, how I want, which you have silenced me for years." She is again removed.

8:20 a.m.: Court resumes. Prosecutors say they plan to rest their case around noon.

RELATED: Recap: Day 2 of testimony in Kimberly Kessler murder trial

RELATED: Kimberly Kessler's injuries were 'defensive,' attorneys say, but agree there was a 'violent confrontation'

From Tuesday:

“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.

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