Coroner Rules Death of 19-Year-Old Chicago Woman Found in Freezer an Accident

Kenneka Jenkins (Chicago Tribune via Facebook)
Kenneka Jenkins (Chicago Tribune via Facebook)

An autopsy has determined that a 19-year-old woman whose body was found inside a Chicago-area hotel freezer died of hypothermia from exposure to cold conditions and not foul play.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office says that toxicology tests found alcohol, caffeine and an epilepsy/migraine medication in Kenneka Jenkins’ system and that her death was an accident, Time magazine reports.


As reported earlier by The Root, Jenkins’ body was found Sept. 10 in a walk-in freezer at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont, Ill. There was a fury of social media activity surrounding the teen’s death, with her family suspecting foul play and asking the FBI to look into it.

What is known is that Jenkins had left her Chicago home to attend a party at the hotel. She was found about 24 hours later after relatives reported her missing.

Surveillance videos released by police days later show Jenkins, alone, wandering through a kitchen area near the freezer.

Read more at Time magazine.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.

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I’m still trying to work out how she got trapped in the freezer. Aren’t most commercial walk-in freezers these days designed so they can be opened from the inside, specifically to prevent this sort of tragedy?

I suppose one can’t rule out the possibility that she was so intoxicated she couldn’t work the latch to let herself out. Or that she simply passed out in the freezer. But I’d think either one of those scenarios would require an extremely high level of intoxication. And yet her blood alcohol level was 0.112 (equivalent to 2-3 drinks in an hour for a smaller-size woman) — which indicates she was only moderately drunk .

This is a puzzling case.