A 19-year-old Chicago teenager was found dead inside the walk-in freezer of a suburban hotel Sunday morning, hours after friends and family reported her missing, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Kenneka Jenkins was attending a party at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont when she went missing early Saturday morning. After an hours-long search, which included watching surveillance video and knocking on hotel guests doors, police found Jenkins’ body in the freezer. She was pronounced dead at 12:48 a.m.
While the cause of death is still unknown, the mother of the teen says her daughter would have had trouble opening the heavy freezer doors by herself, saying she would have realized the doors weren’t an opening to an elevator or hotel entrance. Police, however, told the family that Jenkins let herself inside the freezer while she was inebriated — she was reportedly spotted on surveillance video around 3:20 a.m. “staggering” near the front desk.
“Those were double steel doors, she didn’t just pop them open,” Tereasa Martin said.
Friends of the teenager say she was last seen on the ninth floor of the hotel. According to Martin, the group called her around 4 a.m. Saturday to report Jenkins’ missing. While preparing to leave the party, the friends realized Jenkins left her phone and car keys in the room, the Tribune writes. Leaving Jenkins in the hallway, the friends when back to get her items. When they returned, she was gone.
Martin set out to find her daughter at the hotel an hour later, but was told she would have to file a missing persons report before she could watch surveillance video of the property. She was also told to wait a few hours before she filed the report with police. The family was unable to view the tapes for another 11 hours, prompting anger for the apparent “lack of urgency” exhibited by the establishment and the Rosemont police.
“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,” Gary Mack, a spokesman for the village of Rosemont, said. “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.”
But Martin is not only questioning how her daughter ended up in a freezer, reportedly located near a construction area with little foot traffic, but also why they waited so long to search for her.
“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.
An investigation into the incident continues.