On Friday September 8, 2017, 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins attended a party at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare hotel. She was seen by party-goers drinking cognac, but eye witnesses reported that she was not taking any other drugs. According to the party-goers, Jenkins was acting weird and looked upset. Her friends noticed around 3 am that she hadn’t come back to the party. They called Jenkins’ mom, who showed up to the hotel around 5:30 am to start the search herself. She started knocking on guests’ doors asking for information until hotel management called 911 to report her disturbance. Jenkins’ mom later reported she had a difficult time getting through to hotel management as well as the police.
Hotel management did not allow Jenkins’ mom to review the footage from the night before until she was officially reported missing, which didn’t happen until 1:15 pm the next day. At 10 pm on Saturday, Jenkins was finally seen on film. A few hours later, Jenkins’ body was found lying face down on her side with one shoe off in a walk-in freezer in the hotel kitchen. Jenkins had no signs of trauma other than a small cut on her foot.
Video footage has been released, where Jenkins can be seen staggering through the eerily empty halls of the hotel and eventually into the kitchen:
After the footage was released to the public, many have been suspicious about how Jenkins was able to get to the kitchen without anyone stopping her. Also, Jenkins seems to be completely alone in the hotel, not a worker in sight. The kitchen was empty due to construction, but it doesn’t explain why no one noticed the obviously intoxicated teen.
Ultimately, Jenkins’ death was ruled an accident. The coroner reported that her BAC was 0.112, but there were no illicit party drugs in her system. However, trace amounts of topiramate, a medication used for migraines and epilepsy, were found in her system despite not being prescribed to her. This drug can intensify the effects of alcohol as well and act as a catalyst for hypothermia.
Friends of Jenkins’ couldn’t get their stories straight, and with no footage of Jenkins’ getting into the freezer, there isn’t enough evidence to support the ruling of accidental death. The family’s attorney showed a photo of a lock button on the outside of the freezer, but a spokesperson for the hotel clarified that there were no locks on the refrigerator, and Jenkins could have let herself out.
Conspiracy theories have cropped up all over the internet, just like cases similar to hers such as Elisa Lam, ranging from planned assault to organ harvesting. None of the theories have gained enough traction or provided enough evidence to reopen the case. While the true nature of her untimely death may never be revealed, one thing that Jenkins’ mom holds true is that her daughter could have been saved had the hotel management and police taken her concern seriously.