YULEE, Fla. — A woman charged with murder is due back in court Wednesday morning for a daylong hearing on whether key evidence in the case should be admitted at trial.
Kimberly Kessler is charged with first degree murder in the disappearance and presumed death of Joleen Cummings, a Yulee hairstylist and mother of three last seen on May 12, 2018.
Kessler has pleaded not guilty. Her attorneys have filed numerous motions to suppress evidence in the case. They argue her initial detention was illegal and any information gained as a result of it – including statements used to obtain subsequent search warrants -- should be excluded.
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The first in a series of motions to be considered cites statements Kessler gave law enforcement agents who found her parked at a St. Johns County rest stop three days after Cummings and her car were reported missing. The motion specifically seeks to exclude Kessler’s statements that she “ran into a tree while riding her bike” to explain facial injuries, that she was “not that close to Joleen” and that she “has never been in Joleen’s vehicle.”
Police say surveillance video shows Kessler abandoning Joleen’s Ford Expedition at a Home Depot parking lot on May 13, 2018.
In that suppression motion, attorneys argue Kessler was not advised of her rights nor told she was a suspect in a homicide investigation. In their third suppression motion, attorneys contend Kessler’s subsequent detention in the St. Johns County Jail was unlawful. In their fourth they argue the warrant used to detain her, for grand theft auto, offers no connection between Kessler and Cummings, and that evidence collected including Kessler’s DNA and fingernail scrapings “far exceed the scope of materials that could be accessed in relation to the offense of grand theft auto.”
The series of suppression motions – two through nine – build on one another, arguing that each subsequent search and seizure was “fruit of the poisonous tree” — a legal concept used to disallow evidence based on an initial violation of the 4th Amendment.
The motions will be heard by Circuit Judge James Daniel over the course of the day.
Whether Kessler will physically be present is unknown. She has been ejected from several previous hearings due to disruptive behavior.