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Trial For Florida Woman Accused Of Killing Hairstylist Begins With Bizarre Outbursts
Kessler was found competent to stand trial, despite engaging in hunger strikes and throwing her feces at guards while incarcerated.
The trial of a woman accused of killing her missing coworker will continue without her presence following a series of bizarre accusations and outbursts by the defendant.
Kimberly Kessler, 54, was escorted out of the courtroom on Monday for disruptive behavior after refusing to let her public defenders to represent her and for falsely claiming her attorney, Jordan Beard, was the victim’s cousin, according to NBC affiliate First Coast News.
Kessler is accused of killing her coworker, missing hairstylist Joleen Cummings.
On Tuesday, Kessler was escorted away once more after being present for trial for less than a minute, according to News4Jax. She reiterated the previous day’s accusations.
“No, I refuse this counsel. I always have,” Kessler interrupted the judge. “It’s injustice, and you know it. Jordan Beard is Joleen’s cousin.”
Kessler’s mental health has been called into question since Cummings’ 2018 disappearance. Still, Nassau County Circuit Judge James Daniel found the defendant competent to stand trial at a third mental competency hearing during which the defendant was restrained to a wheelchair and then removed after shouting in the courtroom. As reported by News4Jax, correctional officers testified then that Kessler regularly threw her own feces and urine at them and claimed she also smeared her own waste on the walls of her cell and her body.
Kessler would also allegedly strip off her clothes and make obscene comments and gestures.
Kessler has furthermore experienced a significant loss of body weight since her 2018 arrest. According to News4Jax, at one point Kessler weighed only 74 pounds after going on a hunger strike because she believed her food was poisoned.
Despite the judge’s agreement with an expert psychologist that Kessler suffered from delusional disorder — referring to her as a "psychopath" — he ruled she was fit for trial, according to First Coast News. The ruling reversed his own 2019 decision that she was incompetent.
Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper stated that Kessler had assumed 17 different identities and lived in 33 cities since 1996, as previously reported.
“I’m not sure what she was hiding from, but this time, she came to the wrong county and messed with the wrong people,” said Leeper. “Hopefully, she will never have the opportunity to do anything like this ever again.”
Joleen Cummings, 34, was last seen on May 12, 2018; she failed to pick up her children the next day for a Mother’s Day outing. Three days later, the victim’s vehicle was found at a Home Depot parking lot in Yulee, Florida. Investigators said surveillance video showed Kessler getting out of Cummings’ SUV.
“As she [Cumming] had plans for the next day of her life, the defendant had plans for her death,” prosecutor Donna Thurston said at Monday’s opening statements, according to First Coast News.
Although Cummings’ body was never found, a grand jury indicted Kessler on charges of first-degree murder in September 2018.
In 2019, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement DNA analysis found Cummings’ blood on Kessler’s boot and sock, as previously reported. The victim’s blood was also found on a pair of Kessler’s scissors and in a storage locker at the Tangles Hair Salon in Yulee, Florida where both Cummings and Kessler worked. An extensive amount of the victim’s blood was found on the salon’s walls, cabinets, chairs and sink drain.
Prosecutor Thurston told jurors Kessler was seen discarding a bin behind the hair salon, where the victim’s blood and fingernail were found, according to First Coast News.
Kessler also possessed a receipt that proved she purchased cleaning gloves, ammonia, trash bags and an electric knife around the time Cummings disappeared, according to News4Jax.
A motive for the murder has not been determined.
“A lot of this case is not in dispute,” Kessler’s public defender, Tom Townsend, said on Monday, according to First Coast News.
Tuesday’s proceedings continue. Kessler remains in a holding room where she can observe her trial without interfering.