Chicago Teen found dead inside walk-in Hotel freezer.
Kenneka Jenkins, 19, was found dead inside a walk-in freezer at a Rosemont hotel Sunday morning, about a day after she had gone missing from a party she attended with friends, police and her family said.
Jenkins was discovered after an hours-long search and was pronounced dead at 12:48 a.m. Sunday [Sept. 10], according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. Teresa Martin, Jenkins' mother, said police told her Jenkins apparently let herself into the freezer while drunk and died inside. An autopsy was performed Sunday but it wasn't immediately clear whether foul play was suspected, according to Becky Schlikerman, spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office. The cause and manner of the teen's death remained undetermined.
While speaking to reporters outside of the hotel Sunday morning, Martin said she was having trouble understanding what happened to her daughter.
"(I'm) horrified," she said. "It's something that no one could ever imagine. It's unbelievable."
According to Martin and police, Jenkins left her house around 11:30 p.m. Friday to attend a party with friends in a hotel room at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare Hotel & Conference Center in Rosemont. Jenkins' sister last spoke to her around 1:30 a.m. Saturday and witnesses told police they saw Jenkins at a party on the ninth floor of the hotel, according to Gary Mack, a spokesman for the village of Rosemont.
Martin said her daughter's friends called her after 4 a.m. Saturday to say they had lost track of Jenkins in the hotel and left after they were unable to find her. The friends told Martin they were getting ready to leave the party but realized Jenkins had left her phone and car keys back in the room. Jenkins stayed in the hallway while the friends said they retrieved her stuff. When they got back to the hall she was gone, Martin said they told her. The friends said they were in the car Martin had lent her daughter for the night and they had Jenkins' cell phone.But Martin said she questioned the friends' accounts, saying their "stories changed over and over."
Martin said she went to the hotel around 5 a.m. Saturday looking for her daughter but the hotel staff told her they needed a missing persons report from the police before they could start reviewing surveillance video of the premises. When she called the police, she was told she had to wait a few hours before filing the report to see if Jenkins showed up.
Jenkins' older sister, Leonore Harris, filed the missing person's report later that morning and authorities notified the hotel about 1:15 p.m. Saturday. The 11-hour search for Jenkins included all public areas and the ninth floor. Martin said around 3 or 4 p.m. Saturday, police viewed some of the hotel video footage and said they did not see her daughter.
The family then left and came back a third time around 6 p.m. Saturday, at which point relatives began to knock on room doors asking guests if they had any information, according to Martin. The hotel called the police to complain and one of the responding officers listened to the family's plight agreed to view the video footage again, Martin said.
Around 10 p.m. Saturday, police told Jenkins' relatives they had spotted her on video from about 3:20 a.m. that day, "staggering" drunk near the front desk, according to Martin. Family members stayed at the hotel until after 1 a.m. Sunday, when police informed them, they had discovered Jenkins' body in the walk-in freezer. It's unclear who found her, but Mack said the hotel was doing some construction in the area where she was located, and it's not typically where anyone who was a guest in the hotel would be. The freezer was turned on and cold but was not being used to store food.
Martin said she had a hard time believing the police account that Jenkins got into the freezer on her own, noting that if her daughter was drunk, she would have had difficulty opening the heavy freezer doors. She was also angry about what she said was hotel workers' lack of urgency during her pleas for help in finding her daughter Saturday morning, sending her to the police rather than immediately reviewing hotel footage. Martin said she thought Rosemont police also failed to listen to the family's frantic attempts to figure out what happened to Jenkins.
"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.