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Autopsy Report Says Teen Found Dead In Hotel Freezer Wasn’t Murdered

The autopsy report on Kenneka Jenkins, the teen whose body was found in a hotel walk-in fridge, has concluded that she died of hypothermia. The 19-year-old was also found to have alcohol, caffeine, and an epilepsy medication in her system.

Jenkins was found at the Rosemont Crowne Plaza on September 10th, 24 hours after relatives contacted the hotel and police. She had been attending a party at the hotel the night of her death, and surveillance camera footage shows her wandering through a kitchen area near the freezer at approximately three in the morning. However, no footage shows Jenkins walking into the freezer itself, which has fueled suspicions of foul play.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office released the results of their autopsy on October 6th and ruled that the cause of death was hypothermia from exposure.  They noted that she suffered from gastric mucosal erosions, a pattern of inflammation on the stomach wall that is often present in hypothermia-related deaths. They also found that her brain was swollen, but said that the condition didn’t point to a specific cause of death.

Jenkins also had several drugs in her system that may have indirectly caused her death. At the time of death, her blood alcohol level was higher than the legal driving limit, and she also had the epilepsy drug topiramate in her system. Alcohol and topiramate are “synergistic,” meaning that taken together, they enhance each other’s functioning. According to the coroner’s office, this can lead to “dizziness, impaired memory, concentration, and judgment, and confusion.” Ultimately, the medical examiners’ office ruled her death an accident.

Kenneka Jenkins' memorial service.Emily Pollock

After the results of the autopsy were announced, Rosemont police announced that they had concluded the investigation. They published all of their case evidence online, including video surveillance, several 911 calls, and more than 200 other documents.  The documents published included several “graphic and disturbing” postmortem photos of the teen that show her lying on the floor of the freezer with her shirt partially off, one shoe missing.

The photos have only added to the speculation that Jenkins’ death had foul play involved. Larry Rogers Jr., one of the attorneys for Jenkins’ mother, said that the photos “raise more questions about what happened to Kenneka Jenkins than they answer.” The teen’s mother, Tereasa Martin, echoes his incredulity, questioning how an inebriated teen could open a set of double steel doors on her own.

But police have officially concluded their investigation. “Our detective reported no signs of foul play throughout the whole investigation,” Police Chief Donald Stephens III said in a statement. “There is no evidence that Ms. Jenkins was forced to drink alcohol or consume any narcotics while at the hotel.” But Stephens extends his deepest condolences to the Jenkins’ family: “The death of any child is tragic, but the death and circumstances surrounding Ms. Jenkins are especially sad.”

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