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Jury finds Kimberly Kessler guilty of first-degree murder in death of Joleen Cummings

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. — A Judge has found the Nassau County woman accused of killing her Yulee hair salon coworker guilty of first-degree murder and grand theft auto. 

Kimberly Kessler was brought into the courtroom Thursday and given the opportunity to participate as the verdict was read, but she again refused to participate and was removed from the courtroom.

Kessler's sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m. 

“Joleen Cummings was a loving mother, devoted daughter and sister, and friend. Her murder and disappearance at the hands of Kimberly Kessler shocked every corner of Nassau County,” said State Attorney Melissa Nelson. 

“I am grateful for the work of law enforcement and our office to achieve justice for Joleen’s mother, Ann Johnson, and everyone who loved Joleen.” 

The case was investigated by the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and FBI Jacksonville and prosecuted by Assistant State Attorneys Donna Thurson and Ashley Young Terry.

Kessler murdered 34-year-old Joleen Cummings, who was reported missing in May of 2018. Cummings' body has never been found.

Click here for a recap of Wednesday's testimony.

RELATED: Murder trial wraps with testimony about Kimberly Kessler's internet searches

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

Times below are approximate.


1:09 p.m.: Kessler's sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m.

12:49 p.m.: The jury finds Kessler guilty of first-degree murder and grand theft auto.

12:46 p.m.: Kessler is brought into the courtroom, given the opportunity to participate as the verdict is read. She again refuses and is removed from the courtroom.

12:44 p.m.: The jury has reached a verdict.

11:18 a.m.: The jury has begun deliberations.

10:40 a.m.: Closing arguments are complete. Judge Daniel is about to read instructions to the jury. 

10:23 a.m.: The state is back in front of the jury with a passion. "Considered. Committed. Concealed ... Jennifer Sybert ... Kimberly Kessler, whatever her name is, she did it." 

10:25 a.m.: "She wasn't a concerned co-worker searching for updates on the case. She was a murderer on the run!" the state tells the jury in regard to internet searches after Cummings disappeared.

10:16 a.m.: Townsend argues Kessler's search history has been taken out of context. He says evidence shows lack of a plan, preparation or premeditation. Says the only proof was there was a fight between the two.

9:53 a.m.: Kessler's public defender Thomas Townsend is giving his closing arguments. He addresses Kessler's absence (paraphrased): "Everyone's due process right is respected even if they do not want to participate."

9:40 a.m.: Prosecutor lists theories for a motive: Cummings called Kessler fake and said she was going to look her up online. Kessler was using a fake name at the time. Kessler did not like Cummings and called her a meth addict. Kessler wanted Cummings' hair clients. She wanted to murder.

9:31 a.m.: The state is now sharing its theories. Thurson claims Kessler murdered Joleen and removed her body by cutting her up with the electric knife she bought at Walmart. Cummings' family is visibly shaken up after the state says this.

9:27 a.m.: The state has laid out a timeline from April 30, 2018 to May 16, 2018 and describes the defendant planning a murder and doing research online to then murdering Joleen Cummings on May 12 and cleaning up that night and the days after.  

9:20 a.m.: Thurson says Kessler spent weeks premeditating killing Cummings based on her internet search history. A day before Cummings disappeared, Thurson says, Cummings told Kessler “Go away. I don’t like you. You are fake."

9:04 a.m.: Thurson argues Kessler used her own hair cutting scissors to kill Cummings, whose blood and DNA were found on them. Thurson lists the places blood was found. “You don’t see pools of blood because the defendant spent two days cleaning up the mess she made, but she left evidence.”

8:54 a.m.: The state says Cummings is dead. Despite her body never being found, the state says witnesses knew her for years and she would not abandon her children.

8:42 a.m.: Prosecutor Donna Thurson begins closing arguments. 

8:38 a.m.: Judge Daniel brings Kessler to the courtroom to invite her to stay, but she refuses to not disrupt the court. She can be heard yelling "Jordan Beard is Joleen Cummings' cousin" down the hallway. Once again, that statement has been proven false. 

8:32 a.m.: Important note from First Coast News reporter Leah Shields in the courtroom: "In full transparency, I witnessed the women talking in front of the courthouse this morning. I reported it to the bailiff. My grandfather was a Florida Circuit Court Judge and I know how important this trial is. Out of precaution & respect for the court, I reported it."

8:29 a.m.: The judge is addressing a woman named Michelle in the gallery. He says it has come to his attention that she had interactions outside of the courtroom with two jurors. She promises she only talked to the women about their hair.

8:15 a.m.: Court is scheduled to resume, with closing arguments to begin. The case is expected to go to the jury later in the day.

RELATED: Kimberly Kessler murder trial day 3: Defense rests its case

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