Mother of teen found dead in freezer reaches $10 million settlement


The mother of a Chicago teenager who was found dead of hypothermia in a hotel freezer in 2017 agreed to a $10 million settlement this week, according to court records.

The teenager, Ken'neka Jenkins, visited the Crowne Plaza Chicago-O'Hare hotel in Rosemont, Illinois, around 1 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2017, according to a lawsuit her mother, Tereasa Martin, filed against CPO Hospitality LLC . , the organization that oversees the hotel and other parts.

Ms. Jenkins, 19, was last seen by friends around 2:30 a.m., leaving a room on the hotel's ninth floor after attending a party, according to the lawsuit.

After it became clear that Ms. Jenkins was missing, hotel staff members assured her mother that they would “verify and review all security cameras and recordings,” according to the lawsuit.

But they didn't do it correctly, according to the lawsuit. If they had, they would have seen Ms. Jenkins “enter the kitchen and would have been able to locate her, which would have prevented her death,” according to the lawsuit.

In surveillance video footage, Ms. Jenkins was “visibly disoriented, confused and lost within her premises” before entering an abandoned kitchen, where she later died in the freezer, according to the filing.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants failed to properly secure the freezer, which had been in an unattended area of ​​the hotel, or prevent the illegal party their daughter had attended at the hotel.

The settlement, reached Tuesday, included $6,000 for Ms. Jenkins' funeral and about $3.5 million for attorneys' fees and costs.

Attorneys for Ms. Jenkins and CPO Hospitality did not respond to requests for comment.

The case led amateur sleuths to analyze widely circulated videos of the hotel party and to pay close attention to their audio and Ms. Jenkins' appearances in them.

Social media users criticized police for acting too slowly, saying that if Ms Jenkins had been a white woman rather than a black one, authorities would have prioritized the investigation into her disappearance.

Rosemont police previously said they had left “no ends unturned” during their investigation after she was reported missing.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that Ms. Jenkins died of hypothermia and said her death was an accident. The office added that alcohol and topiramate, a prescription medication used to prevent migraines and control seizures, were “significant contributing factors.”

Sheelagh McNeill contributed to the research.

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