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A 19-year-old woman was found dead in a freezer Sunday, more than 20 hours after she went missing following a party in one of the hotel rooms in a suburban Chicago hotel, authorities say, and many questions are being raised about how she died and what happened before her death.
Kenneka Jenkins, who lived on Chicago’s West Side, was found about 12:48 a.m. on September 10 in a walk-in freezer at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel & Conference Center in Rosemont, the Chicago Tribune reports. “Jenkins was beyond resuscitation and was pronounced dead on the scene,” Rosemont Police said in a statement.
While police are continuing to investigate her death, and initially said Jenkins went into the freezer on her own, the woman’s mother believes foul play was involved and the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death have led many on social media to speculate that she was killed, possibly after being raped, before being left in the freezer. #KennekaJenkins has trended on Twitter throughout the day Monday as social media sleuths unpack multiple layers of claims about what possibly happened. Police have released few details about the case, adding to the speculation and theories.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jenkins Was Seen on Video ‘Staggering’ in the Hotel Lobby & Was Then Found Dead in the Freezer in an Area Under Construction
Kenneka Jenkins left her home in the 2100 block of West Warren Boulevard in Chicago about 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 9, to go to a party at the Rosemont Crowne Plaza hotel with her friends, her mother told the Chicago Tribune. She last spoke to her sister about 1:30 a.m. Witnesses told police she had been seen at a party on the ninth floor of the hotel, Gary Mack, a spokesperson for the village of Rosemont, told the newspaper.
About 4 a.m. Saturday, Jenkins’ friends became concerned after they lost track of her and were not able to find her, the Tribune reports. The friends told Jenkins’ mother, Tereasa Martin, that they were in the car Martin had lent Jenkins for the night and had her cell phone. Martin went to the hotel about 5 a.m. Saturday to help find her daughter, according to the Tribune. Martin told the newspaper that she asked the hotel staff to look at video surveillance, but was told they needed a missing persons report to do that. Martin then said Rosemont Police told her to wait a few hours before filing a report to see if Jenkins turned up, she told the newspaper.
A missing persons report was then filed with the Rosemont Police by Jenkins’ older sister later Saturday morning and authorities notified the hotel that they were looking for her about 1:15 p.m. “The hotel staff and management (were) actively canvassing the area at that time,” Mack told the newspaper. They looked at hotel video footage about 3 or 4 p.m. Saturday, but did not see Jenkins, according to Martin. Then, at about 6 p.m., the family returned to the hotel and began knocking on room doors to see if gusts knew anything, Martin said. The hotel called police to complain about the knocking and a responding officer felt bad for the family and agreed to watch the video footage again, the Tribune reports.
During that second viewing of the video, the family saw Jenkins “staggering” drunk near the hotel’s front desk. The video was from 3:20 a.m. Saturday and the family discovered it about 10 p.m. that night. They remained at the hotel, and about 1 a.m., police told them the teen’s body had been found in the walk-in freezer in a construction area, the newspaper reports.
“I just happen to know there’s work being done on some new facilities over there, so there is some construction activity where a new restaurant is being built, and (she was found) in that vicinity,” Mack told the newspaper. “This is not an area where anyone would typically be who was a guest in the hotel.”
2. Her Mother Doubts Claims Her Daughter Went Into the Freezer on Her Own
Tereasa Martin told reporters outside of the Rosemont Police Department that she does not believe claims from police that her daughter went into the freezer on her own while drunk. She said if her daughter was that intoxicated, she would have struggled to open the heavy doors to the walk-in freezer.
“Those were double steel doors, she didn’t just pop them open,” Martin told the Chicago Tribune.
Martin also said she was angry and disappointed in the lack of urgency shown by the hotel staff and police.
“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 told the Tribune.
Martin is also questioning the details of what led up to her daughter’s disappearance. She said the stories told by her daughters’ two friends have changed multiple times, according to the Tribune. She said their “stories changed over and over.”
Jenkins told her mother they would be “going to the show and bowling” Friday. Her mother said she only learned about the hotel party when her friends called and said they couldn’t find Jenkins and were heading home with her car. Her friends said the three of them were going to leave the party when they realized Jenkins left her phone and car keys in the room, Martin told the newspaper. The friends told Martin that Jenkins stayed in the hotel hallway while her friends went to get her stuff, according to the newspaper. When they came back, they said Jenkins was gone, Martin said.
3. A Video Showing Her at the Party, Possibly Crying for Help, Has Sparked Numerous Theories About Her Death From Social Media Users
Jenkins death has sparked many social media theories about what happened. A video posted to Facebook by one of her friends, Monifah Shelton, which you can watch above, has added to the mystery surrounding the case and the speculation. At one point in the video, which you can watch in full above, a high-pitched sound can be heard, which some are speculating was Jenkins screaming for help as she was being sexually assaulted or otherwise injured by others at the party. The video is a Facebook Live video posted by a woman who appears to be an employee of the hotel, according to many social media users who have been investigating Jenkins’ death. You can watch the moment of the video where the possible scream is heard below:
The woman seen in the video has deleted her Facebook profile. Social media users have also identified several men believed to have been at the party. Police have not commented about the theories about Jenkins’ disappearance.
Members of Jenkins family are also rallying to call for answers about what happened to her. They held a #JusticeforKenneka protest Monday night. One of Jenkins’ family members wrote on Facebook, “One of you lil bitches did something to my sister,” according to Buzzfeed News, which saved a screenshot of the now-deleted post.
4. Her Friend, Monifah Shelton, Says Jenkins Didn’t ‘Deserve’ What Happened & She ‘Didn’t Have Her Back’
One of Kenneka Jenkins’ friends, Monifah Shelton, posted on Facebook several times Friday and Saturday about her being missing, and the circumstances surrounding it.
“Everybody Kno our bond was tight 🤞🏾👭she was the sweet friend 😘I was the mean friend 😡 Mfs Kno I didn’t play about her & she didn’t play about me 🤞🏾👭💪🏾 I’m so sorry this happen to u u didn’t deserve it u 😪💔 I’m missing tf outta u #Sister4Life,” she wrote Sunday morning.
Before Jenkins was found Sheltn wrote, “Everybody on here talking just pointing fingers just pray she okay and make it home 🙏🏾”
She also said, “It hurt so bad knowing I didn’t have your back kenneka man. … ‘m sorry g I just feel like it’s my fault bro I’m yo bestfriend I suppose to had u I Kno u would of had me it hurting me so bad right now u got me Cryin man please be okay bro god just warp your arms around her guide her 🙏🏾home.”
After Jenkins’ body was found in the freezer, she wrote that she was helping in the search for Jenkins and the investigation.
“On kewan grave this shit blowin me when I saw kenneka wasn’t behide me we got the lookin everybody in that hotel room was laughing didn’t nobody bother to get tf up and help us I look for her to the top floor to the bottom I was knocking on mfs door rooms I look where the car was at & everything for y’all to sit on here and keep saying shit we Kno fucked up we was drunk wtf yall staying sayin it’s our fault like that shit so fuckin lame man den y’all wanna switch the story around I’m waiting to talk to the police if a mf knew some I would of said some I told her mom who all was there who the boys was & everything y’all steady blaming mfs,” she wrote.
Shelton also posted another video showing her in the hotel with Jenkins:
Shelton has not posted on Facebook since Sunday morning, when she shared a photo with Jenkins. Her Facebook posts have been flooded with comments by those who are discussing her friend’s disappearance, including many who claim she set up Jenkins by taking her to the party. She is friends with the woman seen in the Facebook Live video.
In one of her posts on Saturday, she wrote about those who were posting on her page, saying, “Can y’all please leave me alone bro we been bestfriend since 3rd grade we did everything together literally everything we use to call ourself the nene twins 🤞🏾👭 we slept together ate together broke bread together that was my ace 💔😪it hurting me I never thought I was be doin this we suppose to be takin trips we had shit planned out I’m so sorry g 🤦🏽♀️ we sisters for life.”
In another post she said, “G she my bestfriend why would I do anything to harm her man 😔just please leave me alone please.”
5. An Autopsy Was Conducted to Determine How Jenkins Died, but Authorities Have Not Released Those Results
An autopsy was conducted Sunday to determine the cause and manner of Jenkins’ death, but those results have not been made public by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. Police have not said if they believe foul play is involved in the case, but Gary Mack, a spokesperson for Rosemont, told the Chicago Tribune that people should have faith in the police probe, despite questions about their response being raised by Jenkins’ mother and members of the public.
“Anyone can understand how a parent can feel distraught over the loss of a child and feel the need to lash out due to the tremendous pain they’re feeling, and we can certainly understand that,” Mack told the Tribune. “But people can rest assured Rosemont is one of the top, highest trained, most respected police departments in the state of Illinois and does a good job at what they do. Every situation has a lot of variables, and certainly this one did. The hotel has probably never seen anything like this, either, I would imagine.”
Mack said nothing has been ruled in or out.
“The key here is the autopsy report,” he told Buzzfeed News. “I’m sure the police are looking at every conceivable avenue to get to the bottom of this.”
Police also said they are looking into many of the claims being made on Twitter and Facebook.
“Our detectives are looking into everything and are aware of the social media video and posts,” Detective Joe Balogh told BuzzFeed News.