The Family of a Chicago Woman Who Died in a Hotel Freezer Awarded a Multi-Million Dollar Settlement 

( — In September of 2017, 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins was found dead in a walk-in freezer at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. She had been at the hotel with friends, attending a party. Her friends realized they couldn’t find her around 4 am and called her mother, Tereasa Martin. Jenkins was reported missing at 1 p.m. that day, and a search was conducted. She was not found until nearly 12 hours after she’d been reported missing.

An autopsy concluded the cause of death was hypothermia with alcohol and prescription medications in her system. The strange case caught public attention, and speculation as to what happened ran wild. In response to the suspicions, the police released surveillance footage that showed Jenkins wandering alone in a visibly disoriented fashion through the hotel restaurant’s kitchen. Some internet sleuths still suspect foul play, although there is no evidence to suggest that.

There have been several online petitions to reopen the case, totaling hundreds of thousands of signatures. Part of the outrage over Jenkins’s death is that the hotel staff did not seem to take her friends and mother seriously when they first reported her missing and asked for help. Some suggested the slow reaction was due to racial prejudice or sexism. Other critics were concerned that official policies of waiting in the case of missing adults could result in more tragedies like this one.

Jenkin’s mother filed a lawsuit against the hotel, the restaurant, and a security company hired to monitor the premises, citing negligence. The suit argues that proper monitoring by security should have seen the distressed Jenkins and faults the restaurant for not properly securing the walk-in freezer. Furthermore, it is believed that if the hotel had conducted a more thorough search earlier, Jenkins might have survived.

A settlement was announced on Tuesday, December 12. While the lawsuit was originally for more than $50 million, the total settlement agreed upon amounts to about $10 million. Martin will receive more than $3.7 million, while two other relatives will receive $1.2 million and $1.5 million, respectively. The remaining $3.5 million will cover the cost of Jenkin’s funeral as well as Martin’s attorney’s fees.

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