CHICAGO — Kenneka Jenkins, the 19-year-old Near West Side woman found in a Rosemont hotel freezer, accidentally died from cold exposure, with alcohol intoxication a contributing factor, the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Friday.
Her death sparked protests outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel, with friends and relatives demanding answers about how she could have gotten into the freezer and why it took so long to find her.
The medical examiner conducted an autopsy, completed toxicology reports, worked with Rosemont police and checked hotel security footage to investigate Jenkins' death.
Toxicology reports found that Jenkins had a blood-alcohol level of 0.112, above the 0.08 legally permissible to drive. In addition, she had the epilepsy/migraine medication topiramate in her system.
The morgue does not believe foul play was involved:
"There is no evidence, per the police investigation, that Ms. Jenkins was forced to consume the alcohol or the drug. 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."
Jenkins, a Chicago native, was found dead Sept. 10 — nearly a day after she'd gone missing at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The 19-year-old's death has gained massive attention fueled by rampant online speculation about how she died.
Jenkins did not have a prescription for topiramate, which when combined with alcohol enhances symptoms such as "dizziness, impaired memory, impaired concentration, poor coordination, confusion and impaired judgment," according the morgue.
The medical examiner inspected the freezer — which was at 34 degrees two hours after she was found since the doors had been open that entire time — with police and reviewed security footage that showed Jenkins walking into the kitchen alone. The surveillance does not clearly show her walking into the freezer. The freezer did have a release for getting out but no light inside.
"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 morgue stated.