A 19-year-old Chicago woman was found dead in a hotel freezer on Sunday hours after her family reported her missing.
Kenneka Jenkins was pronounced dead at 12:48 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel located in suburban Rosemont, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. She was last seen leaving her home on Chicago’s West Side to go to a party at the hotel at around 11:30 p.m. Friday night.
Her mother, Teresa Martin, was told her daughter was missing around 4:40 a.m. Saturday morning, and said that the family went to the hotel several times trying to look for her. According to Martin, the family also called police trying to get help.
“These are all precious hours, especially when I went, between 4 and 5 ish,” she said. “Within that time, maybe we could have saved my child’s life.”
After she was reported missing, Crowne Plaza Hotel staff and management canvassed and searched the area, authorities said. Investigators allowed Jenkins’ sister to look at surveillance video, which showed her entering, but never leaving, the hotel.
“‘We do see your daughter again on this camera,'” police told Martin. “She can barely hold herself up (in the video). She’s like holding onto the rail, walking along the wall.”
After searching for her in the hotel, the staff finally located her in an unused freezer on Sunday morning. She was “beyond resuscitation,” officials said and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators told the family it’s believed that the 19-year-old stumbled into an employee lounge and got into an unused freezer. It’s unclear whether she tried to get out, but her family has their doubts.
What is most upsetting to the family is that they tried to find her just a few hours after she disappeared, but were unable to until it was too late.
“If it weren’t for us studying, pushing to find out what happened, my sister’s life would still be in that freezer right now,” her sister Leonore Harris said.
An autopsy was scheduled to be conducted Sunday, according to the medical examiner’s office, and an investigation into Jenkins’ death remained ongoing.
Since her story has gone public, there has been a number of speculations on what really happened that night. Video has surfaced suggesting that Jenkins may have been set up by a friend and sexually assaulted.