Rosemont PD: Kenneka Jenkins case closed, teen’s death an accident

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Kenneka Jenkins | Facebook photo

The Rosemont Police Department on Friday officially closed the case of Kenneka Jenkins, ruling the 19-year-old’s death was an accident, and posted online a massive trove of reports, video, and even crime scene photos of the teen’s body inside the hotel freezer where it was discovered.

The announcement comes more than a month after the teen’s body was found Sept. 10, inside a freezer in an unused kitchen at the Crown Plaza Hotel, where Jenkins had attended a party with more than 30 other guests. In a four-page press release, Rosemont Police Chief Donald Stephens III acknowledged the speculation swirling around the case, fueled by internet conspiracies and the outrage of Jenkins’ family.

“While there were many theories, rumors and much speculation floating around social media regarding the death of Ms. Jenkins, none were supported with facts,” Stephens’ statement read. “While all leads and theories were investigated by our department, what we have reported throughout the investigation and again, today, are the facts.”

“At this time, the Rosemont Public Safety Department has closed the death investigation of Kenneka Jenkins and has classified this incident as an accidental death. There is no evidence that indicates any other conclusion.”

The records were released in response to public records requests. A spokesman for the department did not immediately respond when asked if the records posted on the village website comprised every file from the investigation, but a letter from the village included in the files seems to indicate that only personal information, such as addresses were redacted.

Jenkins’ mother called Rosemont Police early on the morning of Sept. 9 to report Jenkins hadn’t returned home. Friends said Jenkins had left the party, which was attended by more than 30 people and featured heavy drinking and drug use.

Surveillance video from cameras around the hotel show Jenkins staggering through hallways and into the kitchen area, though the motion-activated camera in the kitchen does not show her entering the freezer. On police dispatch tapes, an officer who first went into the cooler after a hotel worker found the body the next day said Jenkins was “frozen solid.”

Police have downplayed conjecture about foul play from the start, and the Cook County Medical Examiner has ruled the death an accident, and that Jenkins died of hypothermia. Blood tests showed Jenkins had alcohol and a drug used to treat epilepsy in her system. Stephens’ statement says the department still is investigating a man and woman who used a stolen credit card to book the hotel room, and have identified all but six party guests.

After meeting with police officials earlier this week, lawyer for Jenkins’ family complained bitterly about the release of the information. Police had refused to release the full case file to the family, and showed relatives only a handful of photos that were of a “personal, private and indecent” nature, attorney Larry Rogers Jr., said. Police said they would release additional records to public on Friday.

“Frankly, [the] photos depicting how [Jenkins] was found raise more questions about what happened to [her] than they answer,” attorney Larry Rogers Jr. said a statement. “The pictures are graphic and disturbing images and inexplicably show portions of [her] body exposed.”

It was unclear whether files released Friday will end the theorizing by amateur sleuths. Not long after Rogers issued his statement, social media posts emerged questioning why a woman who was freezing to death would have removed her own clothes.

Investigators seemed to anticipate that litigation, and conspiracy theories, might surround the case for some time. Among the investigative files released Friday was a three-dimensional, digital image of the kitchen where Jenkins’ body was found. The high-tech image of the kitchen layout, the chief explained, would provide accurate measurements of the room and “in the event this kitchen is ever remodeled or changed, the location of items and the layout will be documented.”

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