The search for a missing Chicago woman ended in tragedy Sunday when her dead body was discovered inside a walk-in freezer at a hotel where she had attended a party.
WGN9 in Chicago reports 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins had gone to a party Friday night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois, and never returned. Now Jenkins’ family is asking how she died and why the hotel didn’t do more to help them find her.
Jenkins had left her home around 11:30 Friday night to celebrate landing a new job at an area nursing home. She borrowed her mother’s truck and with a group of friends went to a party being held in a hotel room at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare Hotel & Conference Center, not far from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. As night turned into morning, Jenkins’ friends lost track of her but later found her cell phone and car keys. At 4:30 am Saturday, they called her mother, Tereasa Martin, who immediately sensed something was wrong and rushed to the hotel. “My daughter don’t stay out all night,” she told WGN9.
When Martin arrived at the hotel, she says she was stonewalled by its staff who said she needed a missing persons report before they could release footage from the building’s security cameras. Martin then contacted the Rosemont police, who told her to wait a couple hours before filing the report, in case Kenneka came home in the interim.
Jenkins’ sister filed a missing persons report later that morning. Around 1:15 pm, authorities notified the hotel about Jenkins’ disappearance. Finally, between 3:00 and 4:00 pm, 12 hours after anyone had last seen Kenneka Jenkins, police began reviewing the hotel’s surveillance camera footage.
Police initially reported they didn’t see Kenneka in any of hotel video footage. Martin and other members of Kenneka’s family then returned to the hotel Saturday evening and began going door to door, asking guests if they had seen Jenkins or knew anything about her disappearance. After the hotel called the police on Jenkins’ family, a sympathetic officer agreed to review the video footage.
According to the Chicago Tribune, police notified the family at 10:00 pm Saturday night that they spotted Kenneka in footage, staggering near the front desk, seemingly drunk. Following another search of the premises, Kenneka’s body was found in a walk-in freezer in a part of the hotel that was under construction.
As of now, the Cook County Medical Examiner has yet to determine a cause of death. While Martin says police told her Kenneka let herself into the freezer, which was on, and then died inside, she’s not buying it. "I believe someone in this hotel killed my child," Martin she told WGN9.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel released a statement saying, “We are saddened by this news, and our thoughts are with the young woman and her family during this difficult time. The hotel staff will continue to cooperate fully with local authorities.”