ROSEMONT, Ill. – The search for a missing 19-year-old Chicago woman ended Sunday when hotel staffers found her body inside a walk-in freezer.
According to family members and police, 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins left her home around 11:30 p.m. Friday to celebrate her new job at a nursing home, WGN reported. The party was on the ninth floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont.
Her mother, Tereasa Martin, received a call around 4:30 a.m. Saturday from Kenneka’s friends, who said they couldn’t find Kenneka after the party. Her mother went to the hotel and asked the staff to check surveillance video in hopes of finding any trace of her daughter.
The hotel staff referred her to police, and dispatchers told her to wait a few more hours because her daughter could still be out with some of her friends.
Martin and another daughter then went door to door to look for Kenneka or anyone who may have seen her. The hotel called police and reported them for disturbing the peace.
The family filed a missing persons report Saturday afternoon, and staff began canvassing the hotel after the report was filed.
The staff found Jenkins in a walk-in freezer around 12:24 a.m. Sunday. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police believe Kenneka let herself into the walk-in cooler while she was drunk and died inside.
"She was so drunk--that was his exact words--she was so drunk she couldn't hold herself up. She was holding on to the wall," Martin told WGN.
Martin believes her daughter would have had trouble opening the heavy door if she was drunk and would’ve realized she wasn’t getting into an elevator or a hotel entrance. She also said many coolers have safety features that make it possible for someone to open them from the inside.
"I believe someone in this hotel killed my child," Martin told WGN.
She also believes her daughter may still be alive if the hotel had started the search for her earlier.
Her cause of death remains under investigation.