Chicago freezer death was a ‘sad’ accident, police chief says
Authorities have closed the investigation into the death of a young Chicago woman whose body was found in a hotel’s walk-in freezer, saying it was accidental and there was no reason to suspect foul play.
Police in Rosemont, a suburb northwest of Chicago, had been investigating the death of 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins since her body was found September 10 after she attended a party at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel.
“Our detectives reported no signs of foul play throughout the whole investigation,” Chief Donald E. Stephens III with the Rosemont Police Department said in a statement. “There is no evidence that Ms. Jenkins was forced to drink alcohol or consume any narcotics while at the hotel.”
Investigators concluded Jenkin’s death was accidental after retracing her path to the cooler that contained the freezer where her body was found, reviewing hours of surveillance video and interviewing most of the people that were at the party that night.
“There is no evidence that indicates any other conclusion,” Stephens said.
On Friday, police released audio recordings, hours of video surveillance footage and a series of graphic photos showing Jenkins’ body on the floor inside the freezer.
An attorney for Jenkins’ family said the photos were disturbing and raised more question about what happened that night, CNN affiliate WBBM-TV reported.
She was alone
Jenkins’ death sparked accusations on social media of foul play. Stephens said Friday that “none were supported by facts.”
“The death of any child is tragic; but the death and circumstances surrounding Ms. Jenkins are especially sad,” the police chief said.
Surveillance video from inside the Crowne Plaza, released by the Rosemont Public Safety Department, showed Jenkins staggering through the hotel’s hallways before she disappeared.
In the footage, Jenkins is first seen walking through the hotel with several unidentified people around 1:13 a.m. on September 9. She appears to be steady.
But when Jenkins is next sighted exiting an elevator at 3:25 a.m., she is alone and visibly impaired, and staggers out of the elevator, briefly leaning on the wall for support before heading down the hallway.
The footage showed Jenkins entering a kitchen at approximately 3:32 a.m. but does not show her entering the cooler and freezer, where she was found nearly 24 hours later, because no cameras show the doors directly.
Police don’t believe anyone else came in contact with Jenkins after she entered the kitchen. There is only one entrance into the kitchen and anyone who would have walked toward the freezer would have activated a surveillance camera there, Stephens said.
Since Jenkins entered the kitchen until her body was discovered only a security guard was seen entering the area.
“He did not get close to the freezer and was never out of sight of the camera,” Stephens said.
No drugs, signs of trauma
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office had recently classified Jenkins’ death as accidental.
Her cause of death was hypothermia, the coroner said.
The medical examiner explained that levels of alcohol higher than the driving limit and topiramate, a drug most commonly used to treat epilepsy and migraines, were also contributing factors.
“When combined, the effect of either or both drugs is enhanced. Topiramate, like alcohol, can cause dizziness, impaired memory, impaired concentration, poor coordination, confusion and impaired judgment. Central nervous system depression, or impairment, combined with cold exposure can hasten the onset of hypothermia and death,” the office said in a released.
No external or internal trauma as well as “hundreds of drugs of abuse, medications and other chemical compounds” — along with date-rape drugs — were found on Jenkins’ body, the coroner said.