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Posted: September 15, 2017

7 things to know about Kenneka Jenkins, whose body was found in a hotel freezer


7 things to know about Kenneka Jenkins, whose body was found in a hotel freezer
(Getty File Photo)

By Stephanie Toone, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

This story has been updated to reflect new details in the Kenneka Jenkins case.

The mysterious death of Kenneka Jenkins, 19, who was found dead in the freezer of a suburban hotel, has sparked national outcry and questions about the circumstances surrounding her death.

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The teenager 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, Illinois.

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. 

Andrew Holmes, a longtime Chicago anti-violence activist, told the Tribune that local detectives allowed him to review the hotel footage from the Crowne Plaza Wednesday. The video shows what the police originally reported --Jenkins walked herself into the hotel’s freezer, according to Holmes. 

Holmes said the video shows Jenkins waiting in the lobby of the Crowne Plaza while her friends apparently went up to the room where they had earlier partied to retrieve some possessions. On her own, Jenkins takes the elevator to a lower level, wanders around and opens doors in an seemingly disoriented manner. She then, according to Homes, opens two doors in a kitchen area and enters the walk-in freezer. The doors close behind her.

"The important part is we all wanted to know: Did anybody call her down there?" he said. "Did anybody force her down there? Was there anybody on the other side of the room when she got down there? And the answer to that is no."

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2. On Friday, the family denied Holmes’ account and said the video does not show Jenkins walking into the hotel freezer.

Friday morning, an attorney for Kenneka Jenkins’ family told the Tribune they had not received any video evidence from Rosemont police that shows the the 19-year-old entering a hotel walk-in freezer alone despite police officials, announcing Thursday they would show Tereasa Martin extensive hotel footage. Family attorney Larry Rogers Jr. said the family had only been given “snippets” from the surveillance footage.

“The family has not been provided any video or other evidence of Kenneka Jenkins walking into a freezer,” Larry Rogers Jr. said in a statement. “Serious questions remain as to how she ended up in a Crowne Plaza Hotel freezer and why it took a day and a half for the hotel to find Kenneka.”

During a protest at the hotel Thursday night, Martin also said she had not seen surveillance footage and that Holmes’ account of the video footage was false. 

3. Police announced Monday they are investigating the viral Facebook video that allegedly contains footage of Jenkins.

Police are reviewing video on social media that appears to show Jenkins in a room on the ninth-floor of the Crowne Plaza before she disappeared over the weekend, according to the Tribune.

The video, which has been viewed more than 5 million times, features a woman smoking in mirrorer sunglasses periodically talking on the phone or to the camera. Viewers of the Facebook Live believe that, at about the 3-minute mark, a scream can be heard. It also appears Jenkins is reflected in the woman’s glasses on the other side of the hotel room.

"They've looked at it and continue to look at it and all the other social media videos and posts," Gary Mack, spokesman for the village of Rosemont, told the Tribune. "They are leaving no stone unturned as far as trying to corral everyone they can and talk to them and interview them about what happened and what was going on that night."

4. The Crowne Plaza has offered to pay for Kenneka Jenkins’ funeral.

According to the Tribune, a spokesman for the Crowne Plaza said Thursday that the hotel is willing to cover the costs of Jenkins' funeral.

"Our hearts go out to Kenneka's mother, her family and friends," said spokesman Glenn Harston. "We hope covering the funeral costs provides a small bit of relief for them."

5. Her mother had been searching for her daughter since early Saturday morning.

Kenneka Jenkins left her house 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 left with Jenkins’ phone and in the car Martin 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. police began reviewing video footage that led to discovering Jenkins. Martin and her family visited the hotel three times Saturday to find her. 

6. 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. The unusual circumstances have ignited huge interest on social media with many observers blaming police and Jenkins’ friends.

7. 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 is convinced that the delay in investigating her daughter’s death could have made a difference. It’s not clear who found Jenkins or if there were any signs of trauma.

"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.

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