Cook County medical examiners say the death of Kenneka Jenkins, a Chicago teen who was found dead last month inside a hotel walk-in freezer, was an accident. The body of the 19-year-old was discovered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont where she was reportedly partying with friends the night before, WLS reported.
According to the autopsy report, Kenneka died from hypothermia, the Medical Examiner’s Office said in a news release issued Friday. Toxicology tests detected alcohol and topiramate, an epilepsy/migraine medication, in her system. Her blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.112, which is higher than the 0.08 BAC level that is considered as legally drunk for motorists in Illinois.
The alcohol and drug found in her system were capable of hastening the onset of hypothermia and death, the report states. “Alcohol and topiramate are synergistic. 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,” the news release said. “Central nervous system depression, or impairment, combined with cold exposure can hasten the onset of hypothermia and death.”
Despite her death being ruled an accident, her mother, Teresa Martin, believes there was foul play involved and blamed the police department for their delayed response in searching for her. “Anyone can understand how a parent can feel distraught over the loss of a child and feel the need to lash out due to the tremendous pain they’re feeling, and we certainly understand that,” Gary Mack, a spokesman for the village of Rosemont, told the Chicago Tribune. “But people can rest assured Rosemont is one of the top, highest trained, most respected police departments in the state of Illinois and does a good job at what they do.” He added that police were “actively canvassing” the area and viewing security footage during the 11-hour search.
According to Teresa, however, she went to Crowne Plaza around 5 a.m. on Saturday to look for Kenneka, about an hour after her daughter’s friends called and said they couldn’t find her, but alleged that the hotel staff refused to view security footage or look for the teen until a missing person’s report was filed. Yet when she contacted the Rosemont Police Department, she was told to wait a few hours to see if she showed up.
The Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel and Conference Center has since released a statement that read, “The Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel and Conference Center holds the safety, security and well-being of our guests and employees as our top priority and concern. We are saddened by this news, and our thoughts are with the young woman and her family during this difficult time. The hotel staff will continue to cooperate fully with local authorities. All further questions should be directed to the Rosemont Police Department.”
Meanwhile, Teresa is left in shock and still has so many questions. “I’m horrified,” she said. “It’s something that no one could ever imagine. It’s unbelievable.”
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