Cause of Death Revealed for Teen Found in Freezer

October 7, 2017 Updated: October 7, 2017

The medical examiners in Cook County said that Kenneka Jenkins, the teen found dead in a hotel freezer in September, died accidentally with alcohol intoxication and medication being contributing factors.

Jenkins, 19, died from hypothermia after being exposed to cold in the freezer, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday, Oct. 6, CBS Chicago reported.

Jenkins had a blood alcohol level of 0.112, which is above the 0.08 level counted as being legally drunk for drivers in Illinois. The toxicology tests also detected topiramate, an epilepsy and migraine medication, in Jenkins’s system.

According to Jenkins’s family, she did not have a prescription for topiramate. The coroner’s office said the amount in her bloodstream was within the “therapeutic range.”

Kenneka Jenkins. (Facebook/Kenneka Jenkins)

“Alcohol and topiramate are synergistic. When combined, the effect of either or both drugs is enhanced. Topiramate, like alcohol, can cause dizziness, impaired memory, impaired concentration, poor coordination, confusion, and impaired judgment,” the news release from the coroner’s office said. “Central nervous system depression, or impairment, combined with cold exposure can hasten the onset of hypothermia and death.”

Jenkins’s death became the subject of controversy after she was found dead in a Crowne Plaza hotel freezer in Rosemont. The teen went to a party on Friday, Sept. 8, and her friends called her mother to say she was missing early on Saturday. A video posted on Facebook from the night of the party raised many questions, with people speculating about the events leading up to her death.

Some of the mystery was cleared after police released hotel surveillance videos of Jenkins, where she is seen tottering through hallways and walking through the kitchen toward the freezer. But no video of the girl entering the freezer was ever released, with hotel officials telling CBS that no recording exists.

It took more than 24 hours to discover Jenkins’s body after she was reported missing, with people speculating about foul play and a cover-up. The details from the coroner’s report is the newest batch of information of what transpired before her death.

“The investigator found Ms. Jenkins lying face down in a walk-in freezer that is inside of a walk-in refrigerated cooler. The doors to the cooler and freezer had been closed when Ms. Jenkins was discovered,” said the coroner’s office. “The cooler and freezer were both operational. The walk-in freezer was approximately 34 degrees Fahrenheit two hours after Ms. Jenkins was discovered. The doors of the cooler and freezer were open for approximately two hours when this temperature was recorded.”

The medical examiner’s office looked specifically for traces of any “date-rape” drugs in Jenkins’s system, but none were found.

The examiners also found “mucosal erosions” in the girl’s stomach, which are usually associated with hypothermia. With the exception of a swollen brain, a purple contusion on her right leg, and an abrasion on her right ankle, there was “no other evidence of external or internal trauma,” the coroner said.

“There is no evidence, per the police investigation, that Ms. Jenkins was forced to consume the alcohol or the drug,” the report said. “There is no evidence of another person in the vicinity of the kitchen with the decedent and there is no evidence of an altercation or interaction with another individual in the time immediately prior to demise. There was no other evidence of external or internal trauma due to physical abuse.”

Rosemont police have not closed the case and are still seeking the two people who rented the hotel room where Jenkins attended the party.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the girl’s family are conducting their own investigation. They suggest the hotel may be at fault for Jenkins’s death.


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