JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A woman accused of murdering her salon coworker in May 2018 might be a "psychopath," but she is mentally competent to stand trial, a judge has determined.
According to an order by Circuit Judge James Daniel, Kimberly Kessler is not delusional, as doctors for the defense team testified, but more likely a psychopath, as the doctor for prosecutors determined. Either way, he wrote, “The court finds she is competent to proceed.”
Kessler, 51, is accused of killing Joleen Cummings, a 34-year-old hairstylist at a Fernandina Beach salon and a Yulee mother of three who was last seen on Mother’s Day in 2018.
Kessler, who also went by the alias Jennifer Sybert, was placed in psychiatric confinement at Florida State Hospital in July after Daniel found her incompetent to stand trial. At that time, doctors for both the state and her defense team agreed she was incapable of assisting in the case against her – one element of determining sanity.
But last month, a state-appointed psychologist and a psychiatrist hired by Kessler’s defense offered divergent views on her mental state. Louis Legum, Ph.D., hired by Kessler’s attorneys, diagnosed her with delusional disorder and said she was incapable of working with her lawyers to assist in her own defense.
However, Dr. Graham Danzer, hired by the state, found no evidence of delusional behavior, even though she was manipulative and noncompliant.
Judge Daniel summarized Danzer’s testimony in his order, writing, “Defendant has, at times, expressed unusual belief systems such as discussing the "illuminati," but that is not the same as delusional. Defendant never blurted out her belief systems during his conversations with her about the case.”
Daniel added Kessler was “able to appreciate the charges and allegations, appreciate the range of possible penalties, and understand the adversarial nature of the legal process” – the required standard for mental competence in a legal setting.
He noted the two different opinions focus on “her past behavior and unwillingness to cooperate with almost anyone involved in the defense of her case,” but said the question was whether that behavior was “volitional or the product of a mental illness?”
Daniels concluded Kessler’s behavior was likelier “suggestive of psychopathy.”
“Psychopathic personalities have traits that include manipulation; impulsivity; a particular prioritizing of self-interest; exploitation of the perceived weaknesses of others; aversion to taking responsibility for various adverse events; callousness and a lack of empathy; shallow emotions; various oddities of thinking and speech; inflated self-representations; and hostility/conflicts with authorities, significant others, and romantic relational partners. In her reported past history, as well as the evidence of her interactions with her attorneys and mental healthcare providers presented at the hearing, Defendant has displayed many of the character traits of someone with a psychopathic personality disorder.
Defendant has displayed many of the character traits of someone with a psychopathic personality disorder.”