Investigators have multiple pieces of video evidence implicating Kimberly Kessler for the crime. She worked with Cummings for about a month and is thought to be the last person who saw her alive.
The FBI has extended their search for missing mom, 34-year-old Joleen Cummings, to a landfill in Folkston, Georgia. The Florida-Times Union reports that the search began at 7 a.m. Saturday morning and is expected to last seven days. Fifty-year-old Kimberly Kessler worked at the now-closed Tangles Salon in Nassau County, Florida for about a month. Sheriff Bill Leeper said that his office and the FBI had looked at “hundreds of hours” of video looking for clues in Cummings’ disappearance. It was one of those videos that led them to Kessler and to the Chesser Island Road landfill.
“They were able to find footage of Kessler disposing what looked like a white trash bag and emptying the contents of a trash can in one of several dumpsters in the general vicinity of the hair salon over that weekend, items that could be important to this case.”
Authorities determined that the contents of the trash can ended up in the landfill they are now searching. Joleen Cummings has been missing since May 12, the day before Mother’s Day. On May 14, officials contacted landfill managers and asked them to leave the southeast corner holding about 2,700 tons of trash from Nassau County as well as other areas in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia untouched. This is the area they are now searching.
Cummings was last seen leaving her job at 5 p.m. on May 12. She was supposed to pick up her three children from her ex-husband for a Mother’s Day celebration. It was also her birthday. When she didn’t show up and still had not been seen by May 14, she was reported missing. Crime Online reports that authorities went to Tangles Salon that day to speak to Kessler. A co-worker told police that she had pulled into the parking lot that day but left when she found out that police were on their way to talk to her.
The following day, May 15, investigators found Cummings’ SUV abandoned near a Home Depot. Surveillance video shows Kessler abandoning the car there about 1 a.m. on May 13. She got out of the car alone. An affidavit indicates that she then walked to a nearby gas station and got into a taxi cab. She was arrested on May 16 when police found her asleep at a rest stop in a black Kia Soul. Charges were for grand theft auto based on surveillance that showed Kessler driving Cummings’ vehicle. Police reported that she had a scratch on one hand and one eye. She was put in jail with $500,000 bail.
In the course of their investigation, officials found that Kessler has used at least 17 aliases in 32 cities and 14 states since she moved out of Pennsylvania in 1996. After this discovery, Kessler went on a hunger strike, saying that she believed the food she was being provided in prison was poisoned. She has since started eating again.
Sheriff Leeper described the current status of the investigation.
“We have continued tracking down Kessler’s strange past history, collecting valuable physical and forensic evidence, reviewed telephone records and interviewed hundreds of potential witnesses. We are following every lead the public has provided for us. But now have determined a search of the landfill is necessary to ensure we have done all we can do to find clues and answers for Joleen’s family.”
Anyone with information related to the disappearance of Joleen Cummings is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at (904) 548-4005 or First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-8477.
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