Investigators with the Rosemont Police Department are planning to show Kenneka Jenkins’ mother hotel surveillance footage from the night the 19-year-old was found dead in a walk-in freezer at the Crowne Plaza.
But even as police emphasized that the case was being handled as a “noncriminal death,” more than 100 protesters took to the streets Thursday night near the northwest suburban hotel, amid theories spreading on social media that there was foul play in Jenkins’ death.
Activists chanting “No justice, no peace” and carrying signs calling for “Justice for Kenneka” marched down River Road near Balmoral, shutting down traffic in the busy entertainment district.
Gary Mack, a spokesman for Rosemont police, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Jenkins’ mother, Tereasa Martin, would be shown the footage by Thursday afternoon.
“We want to be as understanding as we can with the family, particularly the mother,” Mack said.
Investigators continue to review about 30 hours of surveillance footage collected from 47 cameras in the hotel, according to a police statement.
Martin will be shown “any of the relevant parts that would potentially include images of her daughter. They’re not going to make her sit through 30 hours of videotape,” Mack said.
An autopsy performed to find Jenkins’ cause and manner of death was inconclusive pending further study, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. A spokeswoman said the results “will likely take several weeks.”
Meanwhile, police in Rosemont have classified Jenkins’ case as a noncriminal death.
“It’s a full-blown investigation, but it is a death investigation,” Mack said, adding that there was “no credible evidence at this point” that would prompt police to reclassify Jenkins’ death as a murder.
Jenkins left her home near the United Center at 11:30 p.m. Friday to go to a party in a room of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, according to Rosemont Police. Jenkins’ sister last heard from her via text message about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
About 4 a.m., Jenkins’ friends called her mother to tell her they could not find her, according to community activist Andrew Holmes. An hour later, Martin was at the hotel. She filled out a police report and Jenkins’ sister reported her missing.
Jenkins was last seen at a party on the ninth floor of the hotel in the early hours of Saturday, police said. She was reported missing at 1:16 p.m. that afternoon. Police told Martin that surveillance footage showed Jenkins inebriated near the front desk, according to Holmes.
Hotel staff and management searched the hotel and discovered Jenkins inside a freezer at 12:24 a.m. Sunday, police said. Holmes said Martin was told by police that Jenkins, while drunk, let herself into the freezer and died inside — a narrative disputed by her family.
“It takes strength to open these doors,” Martin told reporters Monday. “So if she could barely hold herself up — she needed the wall to support her — how did she find strength to unlock both the double doors?”
Now-viral video posted to social media over the weekend appears to show Jenkins in a hotel room with several other people in the hours before her disappearance and death.
Rosemont police on Wednesday evening said they had located and interviewed 12 people “who were involved in some way,” including eight who were there for the “hotel gathering.”
Investigators have identified four other people who were in the hotel room, and are trying to track them down for interviews.
“We’re asking them to come forward,” Mack said. “We’re having a difficult time contacting many of them.”
Holmes said Martin believes her daughter was the victim of “foul play.”
“She wants all of those people that were inside that room to come forward and talk to detectives and clear their name,” Holmes said. “Someone in that room knew what happened.”
It remained unclear how and by whom Jenkins was found in the freezer.
Despite autopsy results still pending and police classifying hers as a noncriminal death, social media has been flooded with theories as to how Jenkins died.
A GoFundMe page set up to help cover Jenkins’ funeral costs was taken down not long after it was set up because, Holmes said, the person who initiated it was not connected to Jenkins or her family.
Contributing: Mitchell Armentrout