Family of teenager who froze to death in hotel freezer agrees to $10 million settlement

Six years after her death in a freezer in an Illinois hotel, the family of Kenneka Jenkins has agreed to a $10 million settlement.

The 19-year-old froze to death when a combination of alcohol and her medications for migraines and epilepsy made her disoriented and she wandered into a walk-in commercial freezer. She had been in it for 21 hours before her body was discovered. The Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled her death an accident caused by hypothermia, according to NBC Chicago.

The family’s lawsuit in 2018 alleged that the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, the hotel’s restaurant and a security company were negligent because the freezer was not secured and a search for Jenkins did not discover her. 

Tereasa Martin, the victim’s mother, will receive about $3.7 million, according to court records made public Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported. Other family members will receive a total of $2.7 million, $3.5 million will go toward attorney fees and $6,000 was set aside to cover Jenkins’ funeral costs.

The teenager’s death was stunning and drew national attention in 2017.  She had gone to the hotel to attend a party on the sixth floor. Around 4 a.m., her friends alerted Martin that her daughter was missing.

Martin  called the hotel and was told its staff would review surveillance video in an effort to locate Jenkins, the lawsuit said. However, the lawsuit said, neither the hotel staff nor security had reviewed the tape. When police came to the hotel to investigate, NBC Chicago reports, it appeared they were the first to review the surveillance footage. 

Video scoured by law enforcement many hours later showed Jenkins wander into the freezer close to 3:30 a.m. The suit said that if the hotel had adequately monitored the security cameras, Jenkins would have been found before she died.

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