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When single mom Joleen Cummings went missing, detectives feared she was a victim of domestic violence. Who really killed her, however, was almost impossible to believe.
Born Joleen Rebecca Jensen 1984, she grew up in Nassau County, Florida. She lived with her mother and stepfather and was known for her energy and sense of fun.
“Joleen had a large circle of friends. Everybody loved Joleen,” friend Alma Powers told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
After high school, Joleen studied cosmetology in nearby Jacksonville, Florida, with the intention of opening up her own salon. She had a daughter with a man but the relationship didn’t last.
“Joleen was very excited to be a mom. She didn’t always pick the best guys. I don’t know why. She could always do so much better,” said Powers.
Back in Nassau County, Joleen got a job as a hairstylist at Tangles Hair Salon in Fernandina Beach. Through social media and her natural people skills, she built up a devoted client base.
Her personal life was going well, too. In 2013, Joleen married and had a son with Jason Cummings. Another boy would follow in 2015.
“She was so obsessed with those babies that nothing else mattered. Those kids came first,” friend Mariah Lorraine told “Snapped.”
Unfortunately, the Cummings’ marriage began to falter, and they separated in 2017.
Around a year later, Joleen vanished.
On May 14, 2018, Joleen’s mother called the Fernandina Beach Police Department to report her missing. She was last seen leaving work on May 12. The next day she failed to pick her children up from their father after a week-long visit, according to Florida’s First Coast News.
“The kids’ father contacted her mother, Anne Johnson, and said, ‘You know where Joleen’s at? She’s supposed to pick the kids up,’ and they didn’t know where she was,” Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper told “Snapped.”
They also spoke with the owner of Tangles Hair Salon, who said Joleen had closed up on May 12 around 5 p.m. She had been working with a new employee named Jennifer Sybert. Sybert was contacted by detectives, but said she couldn’t be involved in any law enforcement investigation as she was being stalked by an ex-boyfriend, she claimed. She said she wasn’t close with Joleen and had no idea what happened to her.
Investigators returned to Tangles Hair Salon, where they once again encountered Jennifer Sybert. As the last person to see Joleen alive, they were eager to ask her more questions, but again, she refused.
“She decided she didn’t want to have any part of the police. As she leaves, she said, ‘Hey, I’m quitting. You can mail my check. I can’t be involved in any police activity,’ which is a concern,” said Leeper.
On May 15, authorities received a tip from someone who spotted Joleen's empty vehicle in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Yulee, Florida. Surveillance footage showed Jennifer Sybert walking from the parking lot and going into a gas station, according to The Florida Times-Union newspaper.
Using Luminol, crime scene Investigators found massive amounts of blood residue on the walls, chairs, cabinets, and sink of Tangles Hair Salon, reported Jacksonville television station WJXT. It was later identified as belonging to Joleen Cummings.
A BOLO was placed for Sybert and her black Kia Soul subcompact crossover SUV. She was later found sleeping in her car at a rest area on Interstate 95 in St. Johns County, Florida, and taken into custody. She was charged with grand theft auto.
“She had a nasty cut on her face. Her story was she was riding a bicycle and ran into a tree but that’s not what she would have looked like if she had hit a tree. It looked like she had been in a fight,” said Bill Leeper.
Authorities subsequently obtained surveillance footage which showed Sybert carrying heavy trash bags to a dumpster behind Tangles Hair Salon after it closed on the night of May 12, according to WJXT. It was later emptied by a garbage truck, its contents never retrieved. That night, Sybert was captured on security cameras at Walmart purchasing cleaning supplies, gloves, and an electric carving knife. She then returned to the salon and continued to fill the dumpster out back with large full trash bags, according to WJXT.
“What really floored me was the electric knife. When I saw that, I’m thinking, she cut Joleen up, stuffed her in those black trash bags, and threw her away like garbage,” said Bill Leeper.
Joleen's DNA was later found on socks, boots, and scissors found in Sybert’s car, according to WJXT.
Investigators learned that the day before Joleen disappeared, she had gotten into a fight at work with Sybert.
“Joleen basically told her, ‘You’re not who you say you are and I’m going to find out who you are,'" Nassau County Sheriff’s Sgt. Wayne Herrington told “Snapped.”
Joleen was right. After 48 hours in custody, Sybert spoke with detectives and revealed she was not who everyone thought she was.
“When you run my fingerprints through, they come up as Kimberly Lee Kessler … I am 50 years old and I’ve been running from the FBI for over 25 years,” she says calmly in her videotaped interview, which was obtained by “Snapped.”
Kessler revealed she was born in 1968 and grew up in Butler, Pennsylvania. She claimed she ran away from home after high school and began living under assumed names after dating a man in Arizona who robbed banks.
However, after checking with authorities in Pennsylvania, detectives learned Kessler had been reported missing by her mother in 2004, when she was 35. She had stolen the identity of Jennifer Sybert from a girl who died in 1987 and was buried in her hometown, according to The Florida Times-Union. A search of Kessler’s car found fake documents and identification cards for 18 different aliases and showed she had lived in 33 cities in 14 states since 1996, per Jacksonville CBS-affiliate WJAX-TV.
In September 2018, Kimberly Kessler was charged with first-degree murder. In the lead up to her murder trial, she went on a hunger strike in an attempt to show she was incompetent for trial, according to WJXT. The judge didn’t buy it.
While in custody, Kessler was also charged with two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer after stripping nude and flinging feces at them, according to First Coast News.
In December 2021, she was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Joleen Cummings and subsequently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the The Florida Times-Union.
The search for Joleen Cummings’ body and remains continues to this day.
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