[This post was originally published at The Underexplained website on 11.14.2017]
Found Dead: September 10, 2017
The world wants more out of the death of Kenneka Jenkins.
At 01:30 a.m. Friday, September 9 Kenneka Jenkins arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chicago. She was attending a birthday party with friends. Three hours later her mother, Tereasa Martin called 911 and was told to wait longer before filing a missing persons report which she did later that morning. At about 1:15 p.m. the police contacted the hotel to conduct a search for the missing woman.
Approximately twelve hours later, Kenneka Jenkins was found dead in a freezer in one of the unused kitchens at the hotel. Her body was sent off for an autopsy.
This didn’t matter to a world obsessed with getting justice.
Not familiar with this case? Go google it, I’ll wait. You’re certain to come across a barrage of Youtube conspiracy theories and click-bait fueled misinformation. While the world waited for answers, the hotel went ahead and released hours of security camera footage. The online community devoured it.
I had stayed away from it. Then, I was asked by one of the true crime Facebook groups I’m in to take a look at the case. Silly me. I thought that since I had years of experience working with security camera systems I could just spend an afternoon observing footage and then offer my opinion.
Dear God, I was wrong.
It took me several days to get a hold of any raw video. I swam through countless hours of Youtube screenshots full of viewer commentary – reports of ‘ghost’ suspects edited out of the video by the hotel – misinterpreted images of employees carting around ‘black body bags’ – proclamations that her ‘friends’ at the party had locked her in the freezer, etc.
Then came the conspiracy theories.
She was killed because of her involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement.
She was an Illuminati sacrifice -yes, that one is out there.
I shut off my browser and I just watched the raw footage. What I saw was a young woman, very intoxicated and very lost. Nobody is looking for her. Nobody cares. She’s just a broken child looking for a way out of the hotel.
There was no tampering of the video. There was no phantom attacker. There was no conspiracy.
Protests erupted in front of the hotel.
Lawyers called for blood – blood of the hotel, blood of the police.
The internet cried foul.
Yet, at the heart of it all was Tereasa Martin – a mother that demanded answers, rightfully so.
I read through the medical examiner’s report. This is where you can silence all the media. This is where the answer lies in numbers printed on a page. The examiner’s report is where your heart breaks.
CASE NO: ME2017-04241
NAME: Jenkins, Ken’neka L.
What follows is a profile of any daughter or sister weighed and measured to the ounce.
Then, at the bottom:
BLOOD ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION (BAC) 0.112 g/100mL
TOPIRAMATE 3000 ng/mL
CAUSE OF DEATH: Hypothermia due to cold exposure in a walk-in freezer with ethanol and topiramate intoxication as significant contributory conditions.
MANNER OF DEATH: Accident.
On the same day I read through the examiner’s report, new photographs of Kenneka were released. The unflinching photos showed her disheveled body the way it was found in the freezer. Somehow, they had been posted directly to Kenneka’s public Facebook profile.
We’re upset. I get it. I’m angry too.
But should we let our emotions cloud an objective eye?
It’s a knee-jerk reaction to forgo facts such as ‘paradoxical undressing’ when we come across images of a dead girl with her clothing pulled loose. Paradoxical undressing is when narrowing of blood vessels supplying the extremities cause an increase in bodily temperature. Thus, the victim, burning up, attempts to strip their clothing. This is the last act of someone suffering from hypothermia before death.
‘It can’t be’.
‘She looks like she’s been attacked’.
And more conspiracies are born.
We hop online and spout out theories that MUST be true. The untrained eye sees a spot of fluid on her stomach and well, it HAS to be semen. We need to take a breath and look at some facts.
Topiramate (known as Topamax) is an anti-seizure medication that Kenneka had no prescription for. It can also cause drowsiness and lack of coordination. We know that the medication was found along with alcohol in her bloodstream.
This is our culprit.
The linchpin of this case lies in how she obtained the topiramate/alcohol mixture. There’s been plenty of speculation into this very question. Ever since Kenneka was found, the internet has been flooded with live video/audio captured by the phones of people attending the party that night. Accusations have flown left and right on Facebook and other social media venues.
Somebody at the party that night offered Kenneka a drink knowing that it was ‘spiked’.
That’s where the crime lies.
Keep in mind that the majority of this video has been submitted and studied by the authorities. So far, they haven’t had enough evidence to act on. It’s easy in this day and age to not trust the police. We hear stories everyday where cops are gunning down unarmed citizens or planting evidence. I’m not going to get into the idea that Kenneka’s race is a factor in this investigation, but it’s out there.
I’m not saying we should blindly trust law enforcement. But, shouldn’t we at least give them some time to do their jobs?
Should the hotel be held responsible? Was it negligent in leaving that freezer running in an unused kitchen? Should hotel employees have stopped her from roaming around when she was obviously intoxicated? Will there be justifiable civil lawsuits filed?
I can’t say.
Let’s not let the tragedy of Kenneka’s death be overshadowed by conspiracy.
The true sadness lies in the fact that she was put in such a hazardous situation to begin with. She blindly went to a party with people she considered to be friends. These ‘friends’ dropped the ball – to put it lightly. I find it hard to believe that their intents were not malicious, but we can all agree that certain steps were not followed.
There’s an unwritten code that when you go to a party with friends you look out for each other. That code was broken.
The night I finished researching Kenneka Jenkins’ death I went upstairs and talked it over with my teenaged stepdaughter. We discussed the importance of knowing your surroundings – of being able to trust those around you. I made sure she knew that no matter what type of situation she was in she could always contact me and I’d come get her, no questions asked. We told her to never ever drink a drink she hadn’t made herself.
We can teach our sons and daughters about these dangers. We can open up a dialogue with them.
We can make sure that some good comes out of the tragic death of Kenneka Jenkins.