Kenneka Jenkins’ death ruled an accident

CHICAGO — The Cook County Medical Examiner ruled the death of 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins an accident caused by cold exposure after she entered a walk-in freezer in a Rosemont hotel, according to a statement released Friday.

The medical examiner said intoxication caused by alcohol and topiramate, a medication used for epilepsy and migraines, were “significant contributing factors” in her death. Her blood alcohol concentration was 0.112, which is higher than the 0.08 BAC typically used to rule if an individual is too drunk to drive. The medical examiner said the amount of topiramate in her system was within prescription levels, but Jenkins was not prescribed the drug.

“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 medical examiner said in the statement.

Surveillance footage released by police shows Jenkins left a party on the ninth floor of the Crown Plaza Hotel in Rosemont in the early hours of Sept. 9, but she is not seen entering the freezer because no cameras were pointed in its direction. According to the ME, she entered the hotel’s kitchen around 3:30 a.m. Her body was discovered about 21 hours later after family members contacted the hotel and reported her as missing to police.

“Today’s Cook County Medical Examiner report, which found the young woman died accidentally, must be confusing and difficult for all who knew her. Her death has stunned our company and saddened employees,” a spokesperson for the hotel said in a statement Friday.

Numerous conspiracy theories have been floating around on social media about the teen’s death. The ME said there was no evidence of foul play.

After examining the body and reviewing security camera footage, the medical examiner said there was no one seen entering the unused kitchen area with Jenkins, and said there is no evidence there was any kind of altercation prior to her death. In its autopsy, the medical examiner said they did not find evidence any “date rape drugs” contributed to her death, and there was “no other evidence of external or internal trauma” to her body. They concluded that she died of hypothermia.

“In summary, after an autopsy and thorough review of all available evidence, it is determined that the substantial factor in this death is cold exposure. The alcohol and drug found in Ms. Jenkins’ system combined with cold exposure can hasten the onset of hypothermia and death,” the medical examiner said in its statement.

The Rosemont Public Safety Department also released a statement Friday saying its own investigation determined “no sign of foul play” appears to exist.

“Or investigation, however, is not over,” the department wrote in the release.

Shaniqua Watkins (Photo:RPSD)

Included in the investigation is identifying the individuals who were present in the hotel room during the party that Jenkins attended. The RPSD says they have interviewed 30 of the 36 people identified so far, and are searching for the remaining individuals who are “only known by street names.” They also are looking for two individuals believed to have checked into the hotel for the party, and issued a warrant for the arrest of one of them, identified as Shaniqua Watkins.

Additionally, the department said it recovered four cell phones that were present at the party, including the phone that belonged to Kenneka Jenkins. It also submitted a search warrant for a Facebook video from the night she disappeared, the department said, in addition to waiting for surveillance footage from the hotel to return after being “enhanced.”