FOLKSTON, GA — The strange case of a missing Florida hairdresser believed to be dead took a turn on Monday as authorities commenced searching a Georgia landfill for her remains. The vanished woman’s coworker has been arrested as the prime suspect in the case.
Joleen Jensen Cummings, 34, was last seen on May 12 leaving Tangles, the hair salon where she worked alongside Kimberly Kessler — a 50-year-old Pennsylvania native who herself had been officially “missing under suspicious circumstances” since 2004.
Cummings’ family reported her disappearance to the police the following day, after the divorced mom failed to make it to a Mother’s Day celebration with her three children. It was also Cummings’ birthday.
A week later, searchers found Cummings’ abandoned SUV in a Home Depot parking lot. Detectives used surveillance video to identify Kimberly Kessler as both the last person to see Cummings alive and the driver that dumped the missing woman’s vehicle in the lot.
Police arrested Kessler for grand theft auto and discovered she had faked her identity to get the job at Tangles. Shortly thereafter, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office also announced that Cummings is presumed dead.
Kimberly Kessler has pleaded not guilty to grand theft auto and remains locked up in lieu of $500,000 bail.
At a press conference on Monday, authorities alleged that Kessler was spotted tossing a “normal size white trash bag that you’d get from the grocery store” into a dumpster in Florida. Contents of that dumpster were then carted to the Chesser Island landfill in Folkston, Georgia.
FBI agents and deputies from multiple Florida and Georgia sheriff’s departments have been scouring the landfill for the past three days. No significant discoveries have been announced yet.
In addition to law-enforcement representatives, Anne Johnson, Cumming’s mother, addressed the media at the event and stated:
“Today is 58 days that I have no closure. My heart is pounding for the recovery of my daughter. We miss Joleen and we need closure. If you know anything about [suspect] Kimberly Kessler, please come forward. I ask for justice to be served. I ask everyone to pray without ceasing.”
Anyone with information on the case is being asked to call the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department at (904) 548-4005 or First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-8477 (TIPS).
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Main photos: Joleen Cummings, Kimberly Kessler [Nassau County Sheriff’s Dept]