Family of Kenneka Jenkins sues hotel over freezer death

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CHICAGO — Kenneka Jenkins was missing for 20 hours, but no one realized she was trapped in a hotel freezer.

The 19-year-old was found dead on September 9, 2017. Her body was in a freezer that was in an unused kitchen.

Her family is now suing the hotel, the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare Hotel in Rosemont, for $50 million. They claim she should have been found sooner, but the hotel's security staff was slow to react.

They say no one stopped her from going to the kitchen that was under construction. The lawsuit claims the freezer was locked from the outside after Jenkins walked in.

"What's more likely, through pure negligence, somebody noticed that the doors in the kitchen were opened, they locked them like they should've been locked, they locked the freezer and unfortunately, they locked Kenneka into the freezer," said attorney Geoffrey Fieger at a news conference Tuesday.

"I feel like I was seeking answers that I have not received until now," Kenneka's mother Tereasa Martin said at the news conference.

An autopsy found that she died of hypothermia. She also had alcohol, and a drug used to treat epilepsy and migraines, in her system.

Surveillance video released by police showed Jenkins stumbling through the hotel’s hallways before she found the kitchen and freezer.

The hotel says it will fight the lawsuit.

“The death of Kenneka Jenkins was a tragedy, but the proximate cause of her death were the unsavory individuals who used a stolen credit card to book a room and host an illegal party which Ms. Jenkins attended,” the hotel stated. “Those criminals escaped the hotel before police arrived and have never truly been held accountable. This lawsuit has no merit and we will vigorously contest it.”

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