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Crime

Fla. Mom Never Showed up to Mother's Day Date with Kids — and Her Co-Worker Is Charged with Murder

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A Florida hairdresser has been charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the death of her co-worker — a mom-of-three who disappeared on Mother’s Day and hasn’t been seen since, PEOPLE confirms.

A Nassau County grand jury indicted 44-year-old Kimberly Kessler September 7. Her co-worker, Joleen Cummings, was 34 when she was reported missing on May 14. Cummings body has never been found and she is presumed dead.

Kessler, who worked with Cummings at Tangles Hair Salon in Yulee and was allegedly the last person to see her alive, has been in custody since June for grand theft auto for allegedly stealing Cummings’ car. She pleaded not guilty on June 7 to that charge. Kessler’s public defender in that case did not return PEOPLE’s call for comment.

Authorities have said Kessler has had 18 aliases and has lived in 33 cities and 14 states since 1996, but police have not announced a definitive motive.

In a June news conference following Kessler’s arrest on the grand theft auto charges, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said, “We are not quite sure yet why all the disguises or if she [Kessler] has been involved in the disappearance of anyone else before, but it seems she is definitely running from something.”

Last Friday, Leeper said Kessler has not cooperated with authorities, according to News4Jax.

“Kessler is the person who knows where Jolene is and, unfortunately, she has not provided that information,” Leeper said. “We will continue our efforts to search for Joleen wherever we have credible evidence and our prayers are that she will be found.”

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Kimberly Kessler, also known as Jennifer Sybert
Nassau County Sheriffs Office

Cummings was last seen leaving her job at her hair salon, in Fernandina Beach, at 5 p.m. on May 12. She was supposed to meet up with her ex-husband in Hilliard about 45 minutes away the next day to pick up her kids, ages 3, 4 and 10, but she never showed up.

Her beige 2006 Ford Expedition was discovered May 15 in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Yulee, not far from the salon.

That same day, authorities said, they went to the salon to speak with Kessler but she didn’t show up to work from that point forward — and the address she had given to her boss was fake.

Investigators later discovered surveillance video from 1:17 a.m. on May 13 that allegedly showed Kessler parking Cummings’ SUV.

Kessler was found at a truck stop on May 16 and arrested on the grand theft auto charges.

Anne Johnson, Cummings’ mother, shared her grief with News4Jax, saying, “Joleen’s life was stolen from us, not by the hands of God, but by evil itself manifested in what I would call a monster.”

Johnson added, “What haunts me most is how scared Joleen must have been through this whole horrific ordeal and how hard Joleen must have fought for her life, as I know she was fighting for the life of her three children.”

Kessler is scheduled to appear in court September 13 for both the murder and grand theft auto charges. It is not clear if she has entered a plea or retained an attorney for the latest charge.

She remains in custody in Duval County on no bail.

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