CHICAGO (CBS/AP) — The family of Kenneka Jenkins, who was found dead in a kitchen freezer at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, has filed a lawsuit, seeking $50 million in damages.
The suit was filed by Jenkins’ mother, Tereasa Martin. It claims hotel staff, the security company and a hotel restaurant, are responsible for her daughter’s death, alleging the defendants were negligent because they didn’t secure the walk-in freezer or conduct a proper search when Jenkins went missing.
The suit says that staff failed to monitor security cameras that would have alerted them to Jenkins’ whereabouts, thus preventing her death.
Jenkins, a 19-year-old Chicago resident, was found dead inside a freezer at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel early Sept. 10, 2017 after she went to to the complex late Sept. 8 for a private party in a room there. The circumstances surrounding her death generated controversy, with friends and family members questioning whether foul play had occurred — and whether police mishandled the case.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Jenkins’ death an accident. Medical authorities say she died from hypothermia after being exposed to cold. Toxicology tests detected alcohol and topiramate, an epilepsy/migraine medication, in the woman’s system, which contributed to her death, the M.E.’s office said.
“The death of any child is tragic; but the death and circumstances surrounding Ms. Jenkins are especially sad,” Rosemont Police Chief Donald E. Stephens III said last year.
In October, 2017, the department released a timeline of Jenkins’ last hours and other evidence, including audio recordings and photographs of Jenkins’ body in the compartment where she was found.
Police say they interviewed 44 people — 30 of whom were in the hotel room where the party was that weekend. The police report says the credit card used to pay for the room was fraudulent and was linked to a gang on Chicago’s West Side.
“While there were many theories, rumors and much speculation floating around social media regarding the death of Ms. Jenkins, none were supported with facts,” police said in their final report.
Jenkins’ final documented moments are these, according to Rosemont police:
-She leaves her home on the West Side of Chicago at 11:30 p.m. Friday Sept. 8.
-At 11:30 p.m., she arrives at Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel to attend a private party in a hotel room.
-Surveillance video time-stamped 3:25 a.m. Saturday Sept. 9 shows Jenkins exiting a lower-level elevator.
-At 3:32 a.m. she is last seen on surveillance video; Jenkins is moving through a first-floor kitchen.
-At 7:14 a.m., Jenkins’ mother calls Rosemont Public Safety to report her daughter is missing.
-At 12:46 p.m., Jenkins’ sister files a missing-persons report at the Rosemont police station. Officers search the hotel and, as the day progresses, review surveillance video.
-At 12:25 a.m. Sunday Sept. 10, a hotel employee finds Jenkins’ body. She is pronounced dead at the scene.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)