As they prepare to spend another holiday without their daughter, the family of Kenneka Jenkins said they still don't have answers as to how the 19-year-old died inside a freezer in a restricted part of a suburban hotel last year.
Jenkins, of Chicago, was attending a party at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rosemont in September 2017. Her body was found in the hotel freezer about 24 hours after family members contacted police and the hotel to report she was missing.
Surveillance video showed Jenkins wandering alone through a restricted kitchen area near the freezer.
Relatives and friends questioned whether she was the victim of foul play, but police said her death from hypothermia was an accident.
The family on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the hotel, the security company and a restaurant apparently leasing the space at the time - the Murray Brothers Caddyshack.
The family's attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, now alleges the teen may have been mistakenly locked in the freezer by security staff.
"Right here is a lock," Fieger said. "It can be pressed down and it can secure the door, preventing anybody form the inside from exiting."
The lawsuit says the defendants were negligent because they didn't secure the walk-in freezer or conduct a proper search when Jenkins went missing.
“The death of Kenneka Jenkins was a tragedy," said Glenn M. Harston II, spokesperson for the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare Hotel & Conference Center in a statement Tuesday evening. "The lawsuit filed this week has no merit and we will vigorously contest it. At a press conference today held by counsel for Teresa Martin, the allegation was raised that there was a possibility that Ms. Jenkins was locked in the freezer. Numerous media outlets have already disputed these erroneous claims of anyone locking Ms. Jenkins in the freezer, referencing the video recorded by a motion-activated camera inside the kitchen. In addition, the freezer did not lock from the inside or outside and was functioning properly on the night in question.This is just another failed attempt to generate publicity for a frivolous lawsuit.”
The lawsuit seeks between $50 million and $100 million. The family said they want to know why it took so long for hotel staff to find her.
"There’s no explanation why for 24 hours she laid there. There’s no explanation," Teresa Martin, Jenkins' mother, said.