Newly released surveillance video shows Kenneka Jenkins stumbling around the hallways and kitchen of the hotel where she was found dead inside of the walk-in freezer hours later.
Video shows the 19-year-old leaving the elevator alone at 3.20am then struggling to maintain balance as she navigates the hallways of The Crowne Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Rosemont.
She was at the hotel the night of September 8th for a party with friends on the ninth floor.
Jenkins was officially reported missing on Saturday at 1pm and found dead in the freezer early Sunday morning at 1am.
Though the footage doesn’t show the moment Jenkins enters the freezer, authorities believe she did when she walked out of the frame.
The footage appears to conflict with the social media speculation that there was foul play or that she was coerced into the freezer.
There will be 36 more hours of footage from that weekend released, police told the Chicago Tribune.
The teen’s family’s lawyer told the paper they will be seeking their own investigation and perhaps a second autopsy.
Attorney Larry Rogers said the hotel ‘never checked. They never searched, they never did anything while a young, 19-year-old disoriented girl was sitting in their freezer.’
‘Now there has to be an answer to how that happened. Better yet, there has to be an answer to why that happened.’
Her mother Tereasa Martin said: ‘To me, I feel like they helped kill my child: the police department and this hotel.’
In a 911 recording made after Kenneka vanished but before she was found, Martin tells a dispatcher that she fears her daughter has been drinking after speaking to her friends.
Martin said ‘one cup is too much for her’ and asks if detectives can get the hotel surveillance video. But the dispatcher tries to allay her concerns and assures her that Kenneka will probably turn up.
The family filed a missing persons report at 1.15pm, at which time the hotel searched for Kenneka but failed to find her. It was only after the teen’s parents went to the hotel herself at 6pm that staff phoned police, a second search was mounted and her body was found.
Andrew Holmes, who has worked in the community for decades fighting against violence, told the Chicago Tribune earlier that detectives in Rosemont allowed him to view the video on Wednesday when he went to seek answers on behalf of Jenkins’ family.
‘We all was wondering and wanted to know did anybody pull her down there?’ Holmes told reporters Thursday.
‘Did anybody force her down there? Was anybody on the other side in that room when she got down there? And the answer to that is ‘no.’
Jenkins’ body was discovered in the industrial, walk-in freezer at The Crowne Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Rosemont, a suburb of Chicago, at 1am Sunday.
She had gone missing around 24 hours earlier after partying with friends in one of the hotel’s rooms.
Viral Facebook videos of their antics around the time she vanished are being investigated by police alongside surveillance footage from 47 cameras inside the hotel.
Holmes said one of the surveillance videos shows the 19-year-old woman waiting in the lobby of the hotel after her friends reportedly went up to the room to retrieve items they left behind.
He said that the video shows Jenkins take an elevator to a lower level before she wanders around and opens doors appearing to be disoriented.
He said that she opened two doors in a kitchen area and walked inside of the large freezer before the doors shut behind her.
‘It was just an accident waiting to happen,’ Holmes told the newspaper.
His account of what occurred differs from the social media speculation that the teen was murdered.
Holmes said that the theories circulating online about Jenkins are ‘just something they made up on social media.’
He urged people with hard information to call the police.
Rosemont police said they will show the full video to the woman’s mother before they release it to the public at the end of the investigation.
Martin said that she plans to view the video with her attorney Larry Rogers.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel also announced that they intend to cover the cost of the young woman’s funeral expenses.
A spokesman for the hotel said they extended the offer to the family that would also allow them to privately view 36 total hours of surveillance footage from 40 different cameras inside.
‘Our hearts go out to the Kenneka’s mother, her family and friends. We hope covering the funeral costs provides a small bit of relief for them,’ hotel spokesman Glenn Harston said in the statement.
It was not known if Jenkins’ family had accepted either offer.
No arrests have been made and her cause of death has not been established.