A 19-year-old Chicago woman was found dead in a hotel’s walk-in freezer, a day after she went missing from a party she attended with friends.
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office says Kenneka Jenkins was pronounced dead at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont on Sunday following an hours-long search.
Rosemont police say she was last seen at a party at the hotel early Saturday morning. She was reported missing Saturday afternoon.
Her death has sparked widespread outrage on social media, with people speculating about foul play and calling for justice. Here's what we know so far.
Rosemont police say hotel staff discovered Jenkins inside the walk-in freezer.
The woman's mother, Tereasa Martin, told the Chicago Tribune that police said her daughter apparently let herself into the freezer while drunk and died inside.
An autopsy was performed Sunday but it’s not clear if foul play is suspected, Becky Schlikerman, spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s officer told the Tribune.
The cause of the teen’s death is still undetermined.
Jenkins left her house around 11:30 Friday night to attend a party with friends in a hotel room. Witnesses told police they saw Jenkins at the party on the ninth floor, according to Gary Mack, a spokesperson for the village of Rosemont, the Tribune reported.
Mack added that Jenkins' sister last heard from her around 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Around 4 a.m. Saturday, Martin got a call from her daughter’s friends.
Jenkins' friends told her mom that they lost track of her in the hotel and left when they couldn’t find her. They were in the car she was borrowing from Martin for the night and had her cellphone, Martin told the Tribune.
Around 5 a.m. Saturday, Martin told the Tribune that she went to the hotel to look for her daughter. She says the staff told her she needed a missing person's report from police to look at the hotel’s surveillance footage.
Jenkins' older sister, Leonore Harris, filed a missing person’s report with Rosemont police later in the morning after officers instructed them to wait a couple of hours to see if she turned up. She didn’t, and an 11-hour search for the missing teen began.
"The hotel staff and management (were) actively canvassing the area at that time," Mack told the Tribune.
The search came to an end when the 19-year-old’s body was found in the freezer after 1 a.m. Sunday, the Tribune reported.
Martin says the freezer was turned on but not storing any food.
“…There is some construction activity where a new restaurant is being built, and (she was found) in that vicinity,” Mack said. "This is not an area where anyone would typically be who was a guest in the hotel."
It’s not clear who located the body or whether the construction area was blocked off.
Police are reviewing surveillance video and videos from social media as part of the investigation.
A Facebook Live that appeared to show Jenkins in a hotel room, reflected in the sunglasses worn by the woman filming the video, has gone viral.
"Yes, they've looked at it and continue to look at it and all the other social media videos and posts," Mack told the Tribune on Monday.
'Stories changed over and over'
There are many questions still unanswered, and Jenkins' mother, as well as many on social media, say things don't add up.
My prayers and condolences go out to the family of #KennekaJenkins our sisters will be protected and justice will be served.— Lil Chano from 79th (@chancefromthe79) September 11, 2017
"I believe someone in this hotel killed my child," Martin told WGNTV.
"(I’m) horrified,” she told reporters outside the hotel Sunday morning. “It’s something that no one could ever imagine. It’s unbelievable."
Martin said if her daughter was drunk, she would have had difficulty opening the heavy freezer doors and would've realized she wasn't entering an elevator or the hotel entrance.
"Those were double steel doors, she didn’t just pop them open," she said.
Martin is also questioning the friends’ accounts.
Martin said Jenkins told her she was "going to the show and bowling" Friday. Martin didn’t know about the hotel party until she got a call from Jenkins' friends after she went missing, according to the Tribune.
Her friends told Martin that they were leaving the party until they realized Jenkins left her phone and car keys in the room, the Tribune reported. The friends reportedly went back to the room to get her items while Jenkins stayed in the hallway. The friends say she was gone when they returned.
But their "stories changed over and over," Martin said.
The hotel, in a statement to WGNTV, said the staff will continue to cooperate with the investigation.
"We are saddened by this news, and our thoughts are with the young woman and her family during this difficult time," the statement said.
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The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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