The mother of the 19-year-old girl found dead in a hotel freezer early Sunday morning insists foul play was involved and that authorities did not act fast enough to save her child.
Kenneka Jenkins’ remains were found inside an industrial walk-in freezer at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, a suburb of Chicago, around midnight on Sunday and more than 24 hours after she left home Friday night.
She left her house to head to a party with friends at around 11.30pm on Friday and was officially reported missing at 1.16pm Saturday.
Rosemont police say hotel staff discovered Jenkins inside the walk-in freezer by hotel staff, which was running and cold but not being used to store food.
‘To me, I feel like they helped kill my child: the police department and this hotel,’ Jenkins’ mother Teresa Martin told CBS Chicago.
Kenneka Jenkins’ remains were found inside an industrial walk-in freezer at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, a suburb of Chicago, around midnight on Sunday and more than 24 hours after she left home Friday night
Theresa Martin (top right), the 19-year-old’s mother, insists foul play was involved and that authorities did not act fast enough to save her child
Martin explained that she believes neither the hotel’s staff nor police officers took her pleas for help seriously when she realized her daughter had gone missing.
Jenkins was last seen at a party at the hotel early Saturday and she was reported missing later that afternoon. A text message was sent from her phone at 1.30am Saturday.
Her friends called her family at 4.30am when they could not find her.
Martin said she went to the police to attempt to file a police report, but that she was discouraged from doing so and instead told to wait it out.
The devastated mother also complained that police wouldn’t let her see her daughter’s body.
‘Why can’t I see my daughter? Why can’t I see how she died?’ she said to reporters before bursting into tears.
Though it is not clear if foul play was involved, Martin said that she believes someone killed her daughter.
Rosemont police haven’t released many details, and it’s unclear who found the teenager’s body or whether there were any signs of trauma.
Martin, pictured right and far left with Jenkins, explained that she believes neither the hotel’s staff nor police officers did enough to address her pleas for help after she realized her daughter had gone missing
Though it is not clear if foul play was involved, Martin (pictured right hugging another family member) said that she believes someone killed her daughter
Jenkins’ family, pictured mourning their loss, has also lashed out at the hotel staff for not looking at the surveillance footage earlier. They said the staff members said they had to have a missing persons report to look at the tapes
The young woman was last seen on the hotel’s ninth floor, according to witnesses.
Her mother said Jenkins’ friends told her they last saw the teen when they briefly left her alone so they could go back into the hotel room to get her car keys and cell phone.
However, in an interview on Sunday, Martin said she’s not sure what to believe because the friends’ accounts keep changing.
She also lashed out at the police officers and hotel staff, accusing them of waiting too long to look at surveillance footage.
Martin told the Chicago Tribune that the hotel staff said they had to have a missing persons report to look at the footage.
And the police, she said, told the distraught mother to wait for hours before filing a missing persons report.
She believes that had the report been filed sooner, they could have found the girl before she died.
Her mother said Jenkins’ (pictured) friends told her they last saw her after leaving her alone for a moment so they could go back into the hotel room and get her car keys and cellphone
Initially Martin claims that police told her Jenkins was so drunk that she let herself into the freezer, because ‘freak accidents like that do occur.’
But she questions that reasoning – saying that if her daughter were really that intoxicated she wouldn’t have had the strength and coordination to open the heavy freezer door.
‘The freezer door is heavy. I worked in a cafeteria before,’ her sister Leonore Harris told CBS Chicago.
‘It’s no way if she’s drunk, and they’re saying she’s stumbling, so she don’t have no strength. That’s my baby sister. How can I live knowing I’ll never see her again?’
An autopsy was performed Sunday but came back inconclusive, officials have said. It will likely be several weeks before toxicology results are available, the Tribune reported.
Jenkins’ distraught sister Leonore Harris, pictured, told CBS Chicago ‘That’s my baby sister. How can I live knowing I’ll never see her again?’
The Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel and Conference Center (pictured) said in a statement to ABC7 Chicago : ‘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’
Detective Joe Balogh, a spokesperson for the department, told the Washington Post that officers are interviewing anyone who was with Jenkins at the hotel that night.
They are also reviewing all of the hotel’s surveillance footage and looking at social media posts that have circulated since her death.
In one Facebook Live video from that night Jenkins can be seen listening to loud music inside a hotel room with a group of friends.
Authorities believe the video is a key piece of evidence, and told the Tribune that they have positively identified most of the people seen in it.
The footage has also led police to believe that the death wasn’t an accident and that the video could have been circulated in a potential setup.
A police spokesperson told the Denver Post that police were following procedures at the crime scene, and that he could not comment any further.
The Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel and Conference Center said in a statement to ABC7 Chicago: ‘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.’