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The Kenneka Jenkins Case: What Really Happened?

I am passionate about missing persons cases due to a personal family experience. I try to inform others about these these tragic cases.

Kenneka Jenkins acted as her mother's caregiver when she underwent surgery for breast cancer.

Kenneka Jenkins acted as her mother's caregiver when she underwent surgery for breast cancer.

The Kenneka Jenkins Story

Born in Chicago on May 27, 1998, Kenneka Jenkins grew up smart and responsible with a bright, beautiful smile. She had a good relationship with her mother, Tereasa Martin, and acted as her caregiver when she underwent surgery for breast cancer in 2017.

On September 8th of that same year, Kenneka told her mother she was going to go out with some friends. She told her they would be going bowling and then to a movie to celebrate her getting a job at a nursing home. Kenneka borrowed her mother’s car and left the house around 11 p.m.

That was the last time Tereasa saw her daughter alive.

A Party at the Crowne Plaza Hotel

Kenneka and her three friends did not go bowling or to a movie that night. They instead went to a party on the ninth floor of the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. Security footage shows the group entering from a side entrance around 1:00 a.m.

The friends shared live videos on Snapchat and Facebook during the party, but it was clear the girls were not happy. Males aggressively flirted with the girls even after they were told to back off. At 1:30 a.m., Kenneka sent a text to her sister. It was the last time her family would ever hear from her.

Around 3:00 a.m., the girls decided to leave the party. In the hotel lobby, Kenneka realized she had left her belongings, car keys, and cell phone back in the room. Some sources claim the girls left her alone in the hotel lobby, while others say they left her in the hallway on the ninth floor by the elevator.

Wherever they left her, all three of her friends went to retrieve Kenneka’s belongings from the party and left her alone. They were gone for about 10-20 minutes.

Kenneka Disappears

When the group returned to where they had left Kenneka, she was gone. The friends searched the hotel trying to find her but had no luck. Between 4:00 and 4:30 a.m., they decided to call her mother, Tereasa, to let her know they couldn’t find her daughter.

They asked if Kenneka had maybe gone home without them. When they learned that she hadn’t, they drove to Tereasa's house and brought her back to the hotel to continue searching.

Tereasa didn't trust Kenneka’s friends' story, and later said it "didn't sound right." She could also tell they had been drinking and were possibly under the influence of other substances.

She asked if her daughter had been drinking and they told her she had one drink. Kenneka’s mother said she didn’t handle alcohol very well and that one drink would be too much for her.

No Help From the Hotel or Police

She asked the hotel's front desk for help, but they refused. She requested to see the security footage, or for a security officer to look at it to figure out where her daughter had gone, but they told her only the police could look at the tapes.

At 7:15 a.m., Tereasa called 911 about her missing daughter. The dispatcher told her that her friends could be lying and that Kenneka was probably just passed out drunk in a random hotel room. He told Tereasa to go home and relax and wait a few more hours for Kenneka to show up.

The next day, Kenneka was officially reported as missing and the police began their investigation.

A younger Kenneka at school

A younger Kenneka at school

The Police Investigation

The investigation began around 1:15 p.m. the next day, on September 9th. Hotel staff claimed they looked at the security footage and didn't see anything. Police searched the hotel and surrounding areas but came up with nothing.

The Surveillance Footage

Around 10:00 p.m. an officer decided to look back through the security tapes in case something was missed. Sure enough, he discovered Kenneka stumbling around the hallways of the hotel lobby around 3:20 a.m. She appeared to be extremely intoxicated and was confused and stumbling into walls.

After this, the police sent out a second search team to look for her and follow her last known steps. Kenneka had gotten into an elevator and taken it down to the lower level of the hotel where she stumbled out and down the hallway. The tapes show her walking upstairs and into another hallway, at one point walking into the men's bathroom.

She eventually found her way to a kitchen that was under renovation and not in use. The last known footage shows her walking through this kitchen back towards the double freezer. This freezer had a cooler in front with a second door leading to the freezer areas. The video does not show her walking into the freezer, but it’s speculated she opened the door, walked in, and couldn’t find her way out again.

While this kitchen was under renovation and not in use, the freezer was still on and running, because it was being used as extra storage for food for an upcoming new restaurant in the hotel. The Chicago Tribune reported that the freezer could drop to as low as 8 degrees.

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A Tragic Discovery

Kenneka was found dead around 1:00 a.m. on September 10, 2017 inside the freezer unit. She was found lying on the floor, hair messy, and with one shoe off. She had been wearing ripped jeans, a crop-top jean jacket, and a white bra. She was frozen solid, as the police described her.

The police said they did not suspect foul play.


The first autopsy came back saying their investigation was inconclusive; however, later autopsy reports say she died from hypothermia. She had some scratches and wounds on her foot and ankle that were exposed from not having a shoe on, but other than that no wounds or markings were found. No signs of struggle or a fight were found.

Toxicology Report

Her toxicology report came back showing a blood alcohol level of 0.112, making her legally drunk. Alcohol in her blood would have hastened the hypothermia. She also had a prescription drug in her system that her mother said was not prescribed. It was topiramate, a drug used for epilepsy or to help prevent migraines. It can also be used to help lose weight and control muscle spasms.

Kenneka Jenkins before her tragic death

Kenneka Jenkins before her tragic death

What Happened to Kenneka Jenkins?

Kenneka Jenkins' death was officially ruled an accident. Her mother and friends later said they believe otherwise; they think that foul play was involved.

The case became very popular online, and many web sleuths and conspiracy theorists have sounded off on the cause of death. While there are countless theories and speculations about Kenneka's death; I will only be talking about a few.

Friend Speculation

One popular conspiracy theory is that her friends had something to do with her death, though it's important to note that there is no compelling evidence of this. However, some people have speculated that her friends allowed her to be assaulted and killed by someone or multiple people at the party, and then placed in the freezer. But the security tapes show she was not killed somewhere else before entering the freezer.

Furthermore, the autopsy showed no evidence of sexual assault. Her friends looked for her for an hour and a half before calling her mother and continued to help look for her after.

Hotel Coverup Speculation

Others speculate that the hotel had something to do with her death and that her placement in the freezer is a cover-up. Some people believe she was lured into the freezer by someone working at the hotel and locked in. Some say she was killed off-camera, put in a black garbage bag, and dumped in the freezer to make it look like she stumbled into the freezer on her own.

People find it suspicious that they took out trash so late at night, but it's my understanding that this was a 24-hour service hotel.

People say the hotel might have a motive to cover up whatever happened to her, because the party being held at the hotel was purchased using stolen credit cards and there was underage drinking and illegal drugs being used there. The hotel knew about the party, as they had a noise complaint, but did nothing to stop it.

A lot of people think the hotel was trying to hide the truth about Kenneka’s death so they wouldn’t get in trouble for having an illegal party at their hotel.

Accusations of Video Tampering

Another theory claims the video evidence was tampered with and someone was following her the whole time she was stumbling around the hotel. They claim an employee edited out the person following her to cover up what happened to her.

They say the reason the hotel refused to show the tapes to her was that they were busy editing them to avoid the bad publicity of a murder in the building. While it is probably true that the hotel didn’t want bad publicity, I find it hard to believe someone would go through and edit Kenneka out of each and every frame.

Besides, in the footage she was clearly confused as she stumbled around, and she didn’t appear to be following or trying to evade anybody.

A more compelling criticism of the hotel is that they refused to let Kenneka's mom view the footage when she arrived to look for her daughter. This became more than a criticism when the Jenkins family filed a civil lawsuit against the hotel.

Family's Lawsuit

In 2018 the family filed a $50 million dollar lawsuit against the Crowne Plaza hotel for her daughter's death. The suit claimed the hotel was negligent for not properly securing the renovated freezer area and locking it off from the public.

It also blamed the hotel for not doing anything to stop or end the party that had at least 30 people in a room designed for four occupants. There had been a noise complaint about the room and the staff still did nothing about it.

The lawsuit also asserted that staff members were negligent in not allowing Tereasa to view the security footage to help find her daughter, or having a security officer look at the tapes for her. Tereasa said if the staff had helped her when she asked for the tapes, it's possible her daughter could have been found sooner and survived.

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