Kessler arrested for murder in the Cummings disappearance case
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that, according to a press statement from Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper on May 22, Kimberly Kessler was supposedly the last person who saw Cummings at the Tangles hair salon on Saturday, May 12.
Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper announced at a news conference Friday evening that Kimberly Kessler, also known as Jennifer Sybert, has been charged with first-degree murder as a result of a grand jury’s review of the evidence in the case of the disappearance in May of Joleen Cummings, whose body has not been found.
Kessler is being held in the Duval County Jail on auto theft charges related to her being in possession of Cummings’ car after the disappearance.
Leeper said there would be no bond for Kessler on the new charge. Kessler will have a pre-trial hearing Thursday.
“We are here to provide you with another update on the disappearance of Joleen Cummings, who hasn’t been seen or heard from since May 12, 2018,” Leeper said at the news conference.
According to a press statement from Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper on May 22, Kimberly Kessler was supposedly the last person who saw Cummings at the Tangles hair salon on Saturday, May 12. Kessler was later seen on surveillance video putting garbage bags in a dumpster. That video led to a weeklong search in July of a landfill in Charlton County, Ga. After that search, Leeper said some “items of interest” that he hopes will help solve the mystery of what happened to Cummings were found, but declined to provide specifics.
“We believe we have discovered overwhelming evidence that will convict Kessler of murder. However, finding Joleen’s body would make it even more persuasive and also bring some sort of closure for her family,” Leeper said Friday.
Leeper had previously revealed that Kessler was in Nassau, Duval, and St. Johns counties at various times after May 12, the last day Cummings was seen.
“Joleen could be almost anywhere,” he said.
Leeper gave credit on Friday to “investigators from NCSO, the FBI, FDLE, and State Attorney’s Office (who) worked tirelessly gathering critical evidence that enabled this indictment to be reached. But for their hard work we may not be here today. They conducted hundreds of interviews, gathered a lot of physical and forensic evidence, searched through hours and hours of video surveillance, and also searched cell phone records.”
Leeper also said the investigators had conducted interviews with customers, friends of Kessler, and her family, adding, “I’m not sure what she was hiding from, but this time she came to the wrong county and she messed with the wrong people. And hopefully she will never have the opportunity to do anything like this again.”
Leeper said Cummings “did leave behind plenty of evidence to assist law enforcement in solving her murder. ... There is a lot of evidence we have collected that has not been made public yet, but will be eventually, and when it is, I believe people within our community will be shocked and surprised at what occurred.”
Leeper went on to thank “citizens who have shown their caring hearts and assisted Joleen’s family during this tragic and difficult time. It is especially heartbreaking to know Joleen’s children will grow up without their mother.”
Chapter 4531 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars held a fundraiser three weeks ago for the children of Cummings.
First Coast Crime Stoppers is offering a $4,000 reward for information that leads to the resolution of the Cummings case. Tips will remain anonymous and can be submitted at (886) 845-TIPS or at fccrimestoppers.com. The NCSO can be contacted at (904) 225-5174, (904) 548-4009, or (855) 725-2630.