A 19-year-old West Side woman 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.
Kenneka Jenkins was discovered after an hourslong search and was pronounced dead at 12:48 a.m. Sunday, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Jenkins’ mother, Tereasa Martin, said police told her Jenkins apparently let herself into the freezer while inebriated and died inside. An autopsy was performed Sunday, said Becky Schlikerman, spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether foul play was suspected in Jenkins’ death. The cause and manner of the teen’s death were not determined Sunday.
Speaking to reporters outside the hotel Sunday morning, Martin said she was having trouble understanding what happened.
“(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 in the 2100 block of West Warren Boulevard 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. Gary Mack, a spokesman for the village of Rosemont, said Jenkins’ sister last spoke to her around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
Mack said witnesses told police they saw Jenkins at a party on the ninth floor of the hotel.
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 said they were in the car Martin had lent her daughter for the night and they had Jenkins’ cellphone, Martin said.
Martin said she headed to the hotel around 5 a.m. Saturday to try to find her daughter. Hotel staff told her they needed a missing persons report from police before they could start reviewing surveillance video of the premises. Martin said she then called the Rosemont Police Department and was told to wait a few hours before filing the report to see if Jenkins turned up.
Jenkins’ older sister, Leonore Harris, filed a missing persons report with Rosemont police later that morning, Mack said. Authorities notified the hotel about the missing teen around 1:15 p.m. Saturday. The 11-hour search for Jenkins included all public areas and the ninth floor, where she was last seen by witnesses, Mack said.
“The hotel staff and management (were) actively canvassing the area at that time,” Mack said.
Martin said around 3 or 4 p.m. Saturday, police viewed some of the hotel video footage and said they did not see Jenkins pictured.
The family left and came back a third time around 6 p.m. Saturday, Martin said, at which point relatives started knocking on room doors to see if any guests knew anything. The hotel called the police to complain about the knocking, Martin said. One of those responding officers listened to the family’s plight and 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.
Martin said the 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.
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SOURCE: Chicago Tribune, by John Byrne and Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas