Four days after 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins was found dead in the walk-in freezer of a Chicago-area hotel, police have released surveillance footage to her mother showing the moments before her daughter disappeared.
Rosemont police said they have 36 hours of video from 40 cameras at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel and Conference Center and offered it to the teen’s mother, Tereasa Martin, Thursday, Sept. 14, to review before it’s released to the public, local station ABC7 reported. One video allegedly shows Jenkins’ walking into the hotel freezer alone.
“We wanted to be respectful of the police investigation that’s going on, as well as [be] respectful to the family during the grieving period,” Crowne Plaza spokesman Glen Harston said. “But we also wanted them to have access to the footage to view.”
In the meantime, Martin reportedly allowed community activist Andrew Holmes to view the footage.
Holmes told the Chicago Tribune that police showed him the videos Wednesday, Sept. 13, when he showed up seeking answers on behalf of Jenkins’ family. He said the video shows the teen waiting in the hotel lobby while her friends returned to the 9th-floor room where they’d been partying to retrieve her belongings. Jenkins then takes the elevator to a lower level of the hotel and wanders around, opening different doors in a disoriented manner, he said.
Jenkins’ eventually opens two doors in a kitchen in a vacant area of a hotel and enters the walk-in freezer. The doors close behind her and she isn’t found until 24 hours later.
Holmes disputed unsubstantiated claims floating on social media that foul play was involved in the young woman’s death. Many speculated that Jenkins’ friends had set her up to be drugged, raped and left to die in the freezer. He said the family is still awaiting toxicology reports, however, to see if any drugs were slipped into her drink.
“The important part is we all wanted to know: Did anybody call her down there?” Holmes said during a news conference Thursday. “Did anybody force her down there? Was there anybody on the other side of the room when she got down there? And the answer to that is no.”
At a protest at the Crowne Plaza later that day, however, Jenkins’ mother disputed Holmes’ account of the footage, saying he misrepresented the family. Martin told reporters that the activist was never appointed to represent the family, and that his earlier account of the surveillance footage was false, Newsweek reported. Martin also said she hadn’t seen the footage yet herself but was planning to review it with her attorney, Larry Rogers.
Authorities said Jenkins was partying at the hotel last Friday night when her friends said she went missing early Saturday morning. Martin said she went to the hotel to look for her daughter but said local police hotel staff refused to conduct a search for several hours. That’s when Martin and her family resorted to knocking on hotel guests’ doors until authorities stopped them.
It wasn’t until 1 a.m. Sunday that Jenkins’ was found in the freezer and pronounced dead at the scene. The medical examiner’s office conducted an autopsy, but no official cause of death has been released, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Crowne Plaza has reportedly offered to pay for the young woman’s funeral.
“Our hearts go out to Kenneka’s mother, her family and friends,” Harston said. “We hope covering the funeral costs provides a small bit of relief for them.”