Kenneka Jenkins’ death in hotel freezer ruled accident by hypothermia
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
Kenneka Jenkins, the 19-year-old Chicago woman found dead Sept. 10 in a hotel freezer in northwest suburban Rosemont last month, died of hypothermia, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Her death was ruled an accident. Alcohol and topiramate intoxication — a prescription drug used to treat epilepsy — were listed as contributing factors, according to the medical examiner’s office. Jenkins’ family said she was not prescribed topiramate.
Her blood alcohol level was 0.112, according to the medical examiner’s office. Tests for “date rape” drugs, such as Rohypnol and ketamine, were conducted. Those tests came back negative.
Topiramate, according to the medical examiner’s office, can cause “dizziness, impaired memory, impaired concentration, poor coordination, confusion and impaired judgment.”
Jenkins was attending a party in a room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, according to Rosemont Police, who believe that room was paid for with a stolen credit card; they’re looking for the woman they say booked the room — and who has been accused previously of identity theft and altering a credit card
Rosemont Police issued a statement Friday saying they have conducted 44 interviews, and identified at least 36 people who were in the hotel room that night — a room paid for with a stolen credit card. Of the 36, police said they have interviewed 30, but are still looking for the other six, who “are only known by street names,” according to the Rosemont statement.
That statement also notes the department has “had no cooperation with friends or family of the unidentified subjects.”
The medical examiner’s office on Friday said it was unable to determine when exactly Jenkins died or how much alcohol she had consumed. The Crowne Plaza Hotel freezer in which she was found was inside a walk-in cooler. The temperature inside the freezer was 34 degrees and the freezer door was equipped “with a circular release mechanism.”
Jenkins was found about 21 hours after she was seen on surveillance footage walking through the hotel’s kitchen.
Attorneys for the mother of Jenkins on Friday also filed an emergency petition to preserve all surveillance recordings taken within the hotel from before the time Jenkins was found dead.
The filing also asks the hotel to produce a schedule of any employees and independent contractors who were at the hotel from Sept. 8 through Sept. 10.
Jenkins left her home near the United Center at 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 8 to go to the hotel, according to Rosemont Police. Jenkins’ sister last heard from her via text message about 1:30 a.m. Sept. 9.
About 4 a.m. on Sept. 9, Jenkins’ friends called her mother to tell her they could not find her, longtime Chicago anti-violence activist Andrew Holmes has said. An hour later, Tereasa Martin — who had recently undergone a double mastectomy — 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 Sept. 9, 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. Sept. 10, police said.
In the days and weeks after her death, Twitter and Facebook were flooded with conspiracy theories about how Jenkins had died, with some speculating that she was murdered in the freezer and her organs were harvested.
In Friday’s court filing, however, Martin’s attorneys disclosed that Jenkins’ body had no signs of physical trauma — including no signs of sexual assault — and that all her organs were present and intact.
In a statement released with Jenkins’ autopsy results, the medical examiner’s office made a point to refute any other theories about her death, saying:
“There is no evidence, per the police investigation, that Ms. Jenkins was forced to consume the alcohol or the drug. There is no evidence of another person in the vicinity of the kitchen with the decedent and there is no evidence of an altercation or interaction with another individual in the time immediately prior to demise. There was no other evidence of external or internal trauma due to physical abuse.”
Though no lawsuit has been filed, Martin’s attorneys contend that employees knew the party — which had 20 underage attendees and was funded with a stolen credit card, according to police — was going on. The motion also states that several of the hotel’s walk-in freezers are equipped with padlocks, but not the one Jenkins was found in.
Additionally, Martin’s attorneys say that though they’ve been provided most security footage they’ve requested, no video from two other cameras has been given to them. Specifically, one “near the upstairs abandoned kitchen, and another outside the lower level functioning kitchen.”
In a statement, the Crowne Plaza Hotel offered condolences to Jenkins’ family, adding that “Her death stunned our company and saddened our employees.”
“As we previously assured the family’s attorney, we will preserve all the evidence they requested, including video recordings and documents,” the statement said. “In fact, we have already done so.”
Hotel security footage previously released by the Rosemont police shows Jenkins walking through the hotel in the hours before her death. She can be seen stumbling and struggling to keep her balance, though none of the footage shows her going into the freezer.
Among the clips, Jenkins can be seen arriving at the hotel with three other people shortly after midnight on Saturday. Subsequent clips show her stumbling off elevators and walking alone through hallways.
Friday afternoon, a spokesman for Rosemont police said Jenkins’ is still being treated as “an ongoing death investigation” and not a criminal matter.
Rosemont detectives have obtained four cell phones from people who were present at the hotel party, including Jenkins’, which police obtained through a search warrant.
After her death, protesters gathered for several weeks outside the Crowne Plaza, chanting, demanding “Justice For Kenneka” and calling for an independent investigation into her death by the FBI — an idea Rosemont police quickly quashed.