Judge reviews nearly two dozen motions to limit evidence, including internet searches for “female murderers,” and the phrase “Joleen Cummings … I have vanished.”
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (The video above is from a previous story)
A woman accused of murdering a Nassau County hairstylist had to be escorted out of court again Wednesday during a motion hearing, after screaming and making obscene gestures.
The judge in the case reviewed nearly two dozen motions to limit evidence at trial, including Kimberly Kessler’s alleged searches for “female murderers,” and the phrase “Joleen Cummings … I have vanished.”
Kessler is charged with murder in the 2018 disappearance of Nassau County mother and hairstylist Joleen Cummings. Cummings’ body has never been found.
Attorneys for Kimberly Kessler filed 19 motions earlier this week to prevent the prosecution from using specific evidence or testimony during the upcoming trial and prosecutors filed three of their own. Also at issue was a motion to suppress a report created at the behest of prosecutors to test the hypothesis that a “Black + Decker 9-inch electric carving knife would not cut through human bone at the neck and extremities due to the weakness of the knife motor and the fragility of the blade.”
In order to test the theory, Dr. Heather Walsh-Haney “perform[ed] an experiment on a human cadaver” and recorded the experiment on video. She produced the report in May 2019, but the state did not disclose her as a potential witness until last week and did not provide a copy of her report until Tuesday, according to the motion — “less than 5 weeks before this case is set to begin a jury trial.”
Prosecutor Donna Thurston said the report was important to showing what happened to Joleen Cumminngs. “It is relevant to proving that the victim is dead. And then answering the question of what reasonably could have become of her body.”
But Kessler’s defense attorney Tom Townsend said they would not have enough time to prepare a defense. “The state decides that this is something that we — we could have done this two years ago. This could have already been two and a half years ago. We’re dealing with it now days before trial. It seems a bit underhanded.” The judge agreed the late introduction was problematic. “It is prejudicial, extremely prejudicial. Because there’s absolutely no way at this point in time that they can counteract it.”
The state opposed other defense motions to limit evidence, including investigations of Kessler’s phone.
The defense claims internet searches on Kessler’s phone are not relevant and could create unfair bias. Prosecutors say they are necessary due to the fact that many of the internet searches by Kessler reference death around the time of Cummings disappearance.
Searches reportedly include things like, “How to use a tourniquet,” “injecting advice,” “Florida female murderers,” and “Jolene Cummings … I have vanished.”
Some internet searches also make mention of her accessing MyDeathspace.com on May 16. The court says this is a website used to post obituaries and stories about death. Additionally, the state says on May 8, 2018, Kessler searched “Postmortem changes in the body.”
Judge Daniel denied defense requests to keep the searches out of evidence and said that the information on her phone is relevant.
The trial is set to begin Dec. 6.