By Stephanie Toone, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The mysterious death of a Chicago teen, whose body was found in the freezer of a suburban hotel, has sparked national outcry and questions about the circumstances surrounding her death.
Nineteen-year-old Kenneka Jenkins 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, Ill.
Here is everything we know so far about the tragic death of Kenneka Jenkins:
1. Police said Kenneka walked herself into the freezer where her body was found the morning of Sept. 10.
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.
“There is some construction activity where a new restaurant is being built, and [she was found] in that vicinity,” Gary Mack, spokesman for the village of Rosemont, told the Tribune. “This is not an area where anyone would typically be who was a guest in the hotel.”
2. Her mother had been searching for her daughter since early Saturday morning.
Kenneka Jenkins left her house in 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 had Jenkins’ phone and were in the car Martin had 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. that police began reviewing video footage that led to the discovery of Jenkins’ body. Martin and her family visited the hotel three times Saturday to find her.
3. Her friends’ story about her going missing changed “over and over,” according to her mother.
Jenkins’ friends told Martin that when they were attempting to leave the party, they realized that Jenkins had left her car keys in the hotel party room. Jenkins’ two friends said she waited in the hallway while they went to the room to retrieve her things. Once the friends came back to the hallway, Jenkins had vanished. Martin has publicly challenged the friends’ accounts, claiming that their “stories changed over and over.”
4. Her mother, Tereasa Martin, is contesting the police report that Kenneka walked herself into the freezer.
Martin has questioned 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.
5. A cause of death hasn’t been determined.
Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy Sunday, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether foul play was suspected, according to Becky Schlikerman, spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office.
Martin thinks that the delay in investigating her daughter’s disappearance made a difference.
“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.