7 things to know about Kenneka Jenkins, whose body was found in a hotel freezer


7 things to know about Kenneka Jenkins, whose body was found in a hotel freezer

This story has been updated to reflect new details in the Kenneka Jenkins case.

The mysterious death of Kenneka Jenkins, 19, who was found dead in the freezer of a suburban hotel, has sparked national outcry and questions about the circumstances surrounding her death.

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The teenager left her home for a party Sept. 8, according to the Chicago Tribune. After her mother, Tereasa Martin, demanded hotel staff search for her daughter, Jenkins body was found in the hotel freezer of Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare Hotel & Conference Center in Rosemont, Illinois.

1. Autopsy results released Friday determined that Kenneka Jenkins death was an accident.

Cook County medical examiner’s office has determined the cause of Kenneka Jenkins’ death at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sept. 10, the Chicago Tribune reported.The 19-year-old died from hypothermia due to exposure in the hotel’s walk-in freezer, according to the results released Friday. The freezer Jenkins was found in was capable of getting to a temperature of 8 degrees, the medical examiner's office noted.

In addition to freezing exposure, alcohol intoxication and the use of topiramate, a drug known for treating epilepsy and migraines were “contributing factors.” Her family said Jenkins had not been prescribed topiramate, but the level of the drug was within therapuetic range.

The office also found mucosal erosions, a type of lesion, that indicated Jenkins had suffered from hypothermia and an abrasion on her right ankle. The autopsy results showed her brain was swollen, but that finding does not indicate a specific cause of death, according to the autopsy.

Her blood alcohol level was 0.112, higher than the legal limit of 0.08 for legally driving. The alcohol and the drug can enhance each other, the office said.

Last month, Jenkins’ mother was convinced that the delay in investigating her daughter’s death could have made a difference. It’s not clear who found Jenkins or if there were any signs of trauma.

"If they had taken me seriously and checked right away, they could have found my daughter much sooner and she might have been alive," Martin said.

2. Police believe Kenneka walked herself into the freezer where her body was found the morning of Sept. 10. Rosemont police have rejected calls for FBI to get involved with the Jenkins case.

Kenneka Jenkins was pronounced dead at 12:48 a.m. Sunday. Police informed  Martin and other family members after 1 a.m. Sunday, that Kenneka’s body was found in a walk-in freezer at the Crowne Plaza, according to the Tribune. Police told Martin that her daughter was inebriated and likely stumbled into the freezer, which was not being used to store food, on her own.

Rosemont police officials announced they would continue investigating Kenneka Jenkins death without support from the FBI. During a weekend vigil for Jenkins, Martin and others called for the FBI to open a federal investigation into what happened the night of Jenkins death, according to Newsweek.

“This investigation has been and remains the utmost priority for us,” said Chief Donald Stephens III. “Throughout this investigation we have used any and all outside agencies necessary to complete a thorough investigation and will continue to do so as needed.

On Sept. 15, Police released Crown Plaza hotel footage of Jenkins apparently staggering through the hotel hallways, stumbling into a stairwell and, lastly, wandering into the hotel’s kitchen. The video footage, pieced together by the Chicago Tribune, can be found here. The video clips released do not show Jenkins entering the walk-in freezer where her body was found. However, the security video appears to be captured by a motion-activated camera, which did not display anyone coming into the area until her body was found.

3. Kenneka Jenkins’ funeral drew thousands of mourners from across the country.

Mourners gathered at Chicago’s House of Hope Saturday, expressing their deepest grief and fondest memories of the 19-year-old during the 2 ½-hour service. 

Friends, relatives and complete strangers processioned pass Kenneka Jenkins open casket, which was surrounded by modest flower bouquets on either side. Her loved ones  honored Jenkins during the service by donning purple or wearing tribute shirts that read “Justice for Kenneka.” Though little was revealed about Jenkins’ life during the funeral, a poignant poem read by her nieces touched on their relationship with her. “Every time I feel upset she makes me feel like a princess. Neka was so funny she would make me cry,” one of her nieces said during the service.

House of Hope pastor Rev. James Meeks comforted those in attendance and sought to keep the service protected from the media frenzy that has surrounded Jenkins’ death. His staff monitored social media throughout the service to ensure no one live-streamed.

More than 1,000 people attended the service, including those like Denise Mitchell, who did not know Jenkins but was moved by her mysterious death. 

"We've been following this ever since it happened — crying, staying up late at night — it's heartbreaking. It feels like a relative," Mitchell told the Tribune.

4. According to CBS Chicago, there is no video of Kenneka Jenkins entering the hotel freezer, where her body was found. 

According to a spokesperson for the Crowne Plaza Hotel, there is no footage available of Kenneka Jenkins walking into the hotel freezer, CBS Chicago reported Wednesday. The Rosemont, Illinois, hotel does not have a “video camera trained on the freezer,” where Jenkins body was found, the station reported. The video clips released show Jenkins roaming around the hotel for more than an hour.

Earlier this month, an attorney for Jenkins mother, Tereasa Martin, demanded extensive hotel footage. Family attorney Larry Rogers Jr. said the family had only been given “snippets” from the surveillance footage.

“The family has not been provided any video or other evidence of Kenneka Jenkins walking into a freezer,” Larry Rogers Jr. said in a statement. “Serious questions remain as to how she ended up in a Crowne Plaza Hotel freezer and why it took a day and a half for the hotel to find Kenneka.”

During a protest in honor of Jenkins, Martin also said she had not seen surveillance footage to prove that her daughter walked into the hotel’s freezer alone.

"I want to see her literally, actually walking into this freezer,"  Martin said last week. 


5. On Oct. 6,  Rosemont police announced though “no sign of foul play exists,” they are still investigating Jenkins’ death and looking for two individuals that checked in the hotel for the party.

One of the two people police are searching for is Shaniqua Watkins, who is wanted by police for theft or unauthorized use of a credit card and is being sought on four “active’’ arrest warrants, police said.
Police continue to identify others in attenndance at the hotel room party. They’ve generated 127 related police reports and conducted 44 interviews, 36 of whom were people who were inside the hotel room. There are a few remaining, who are only known by “street names,’’ and police have not been able to locate them yet.
Four cellphones have been recovered from people at the party, including one that belonged to Jenkins, police said. A forensic examination of the cellphones was conducted and they are being analyzed by detectives. Video surveillance from the hotel was sent out to be “enhanced for further examination,’’ and police are waiting for access to a Facebook account, to examine a video ''in its native format,’’ police said.
Police said they are working with the Cook County fugitive task force to locate Watkins but if anyone knows where she is, they are urged to call police, 847-823-1134, ext. 373.

6. Tereasa Martin searched for her daughter for more than a day.

Kenneka Jenkins left her house around 11:30 p.m. Friday for a bowling party, according to what she told her mother. Jenkins friends called Tereasa Martin around 4 a.m. Sept. 9, to report they had not been able locate Jenkins. The friends left with Jenkins phone and in the car Martin lent her daughter for the night.
Martin said she headed to the hotel to search for her daughter at 5 a.m. Saturday, but without a missing persons report, hotel staff refused to search for Jenkins. It wasn’t until around 3 or 4 p.m. police began reviewing video footage that led to discovering Jenkins. Martin and her family visited the hotel three times Saturday to find her.

7. Her mother Tereasa Martin is contesting the police report that Kenneka walked herself into the freezer.

Martin has quesioned the validity of the police’s conclusion on her daughter’s death. If her daughter was drunk, she said, she would have had a hard time opening the freezer door on her own."Those were double steel doors, she didn't just pop them open," Martin said.Martin was angry about what she said was hotel workers' lack of urgency in the face of her pleas for help finding her daughter Saturday morning, directing her to the police rather than immediately reviewing hotel footage. The unusual circumstances have ignited huge interest on social media with many observers blaming police and Jenkins’ friends.

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