MISSING TEENAGER FOUND DEAD IN HOTEL FREEZER

A 19-year-old Chicago woman was found dead in a freezer at a hotel in suburban Rosemont early Sunday, hours after she was reported missing.

Kenneka Jenkins was pronounced dead at 12:48 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, located at 5440 N. River Rd., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

Jenkins, of the 2100 block of West Warren Boulevard, was last seen leaving her home on Chicago’s West Side at around 11:30 p.m. Friday night, the Rosemont Public Safety Department said in a release.

She was headed to the hotel for a party, Jenkins’ sister Leonore Harris told authorities while filing a missing person complaint Saturday afternoon.

Harris said the two last spoke via text message around 1:30 a.m. early Saturday, according to police, who said she filed the official report about 12 hours later.

Witnesses told authorities that Jenkins was seen at a party on the hotel’s ninth floor that evening into early Saturday.

kenneka-jenkins.jpg

Jenkins’ mother Teresa Martin said she was told her daughter was missing around 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Her family went to the hotel several times trying to look for her, Martin said, and called police for 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. Harris said investigators allowed her to watch surveillance video, which showed the teen entering, but never leaving, the hotel.

“‘We do see your daughter again on this camera,'” Martin said police told her. “‘At this point, she can barely hold herself up. She’s like holding onto the rail, walking along the wall.'”

While searching the hotel, staff located Jenkins in a freezer at around 12:24 a.m. early Sunday. She was “beyond resuscitation,” according to officials, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators told the family they believed the 19-year-old stumbled into an employee lounge and got into the freezer that was on, but unused.

Jenkins’ family said they have their doubts about what happened, and that they’re most upset because they tried to find her shortly 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,” Harris said.

“I had all the hope in the world that she would just come back,” she added. “Maybe there was something wrong, but I asked God, not death. He let me down. He let me down.”

An autopsy conducted Sunday ruled that Jenkins’ cause of death was pending further study, according to the medical examiner’s office, and an investigation into Jenkins’ death remained ongoing. Police have not said whether they have ruled out foul play in the case.

NBC CHICAGO

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