Kenneka Jenkins’ death photos ‘raise more questions,’ lawyer says as police close case
Rosemont authorities announced late Friday that they have closed the investigation into Kenneka Jenkins’ death and determined it to be accidental, saying there is “no evidence that indicates any other conclusion.”
However, lawyers for Jenkins’ mother say graphic police photographs taken after Jenkins’ body was found “raise more questions than answers.”
As part of a release of documents and videos related to the case, Rosemont officials on Friday posted on their website dozens of postmortem photographs of Jenkins taken while her body was still in the hotel freezer where she was found dead.
Police showed the photographs to Jenkins’ family on Thursday, and Sam Adam Jr., a lawyer for Jenkins’ mother Tereasa Martin, called them “graphic and disturbing images (that) inexplicably show portions of Kenneka’s body exposed.”
The release from Adam and Martin’s other attorney, Larry Rogers Jr., said the photos were “of a personal, private and indecent nature.”
Jenkins, 19, was found dead in a Rosemont hotel freezer Sept. 10, about 21 hours after she went missing following a party she attended in a ninth-floor room.
According to Rosemont police reports, she was found on her side, face down, with her left arm underneath her, her right shoe off and a small cut on her right foot.
The photographs show that Jenkins was still wearing the jeans and jean jacket shown in surveillance videos of her walking through the hotel before her death, but the shirt beneath her jacket “was pulled up exposing her breasts,” a police report said.
“Frankly, the photos depicting how Kenneka was found raise more questions about what happened to Kenneka Jenkins than they answer,” Rogers said in the news release.
Scientists who have studied hypothermia have described a phenomenon known as “paradoxical undressing,” in which people freezing to death remove their clothing.
“It is concluded that paradoxical undressing might be explained by changes in peripheral vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels supplying the extremities) in the deeply hypothermic person,” scientists wrote in a 1979 journal article. “It represents the last effort of the victim and is followed almost immediately by unconsciousness and death.”
In announcing in a press release Friday evening that they’ve closed the case, Rosemont police outlined the scope of their investigation and said they found no evidence that Jenkins was the victim of foul play — contrary to the many conspiracy theories that have sprouted on social media.
“Our detective reported no signs of foul play throughout the whole investigation,” said a statement from Police Chief Donald Stephens III. “There is no evidence that Ms. Jenkins was forced to drink alcohol or consume any narcotics while at the hotel.”
The statement added: “While there were many theories, rumors and much speculation floating around social media regarding the death of Ms. Jenkins, none were supported with facts. While all leads and theories were investigated by our department, what we have reported throughout the investigation and again, today, are facts.”
Police said their investigation has generated 135 reports and involved interviews with 44 people, including 30 who were confirmed to have been in the hotel room at some point the night of the party.
Authorities also viewed dozens of hours of surveillance video; conducted five photo line-ups; performed forensic analyses on four cellphones, including Jenkins’; and submitted three search warrants and four preservation of evidence warrants.
The police statement said the “death and circumstances surrounding are especially sad.”
Reached by phone Friday evening, Martin declined to comment on the photographs and the village’s decision to post them on its website. Martin referred calls to her attorneys, who could not immediately be reached.
In a news release Thursday evening, the lawyers said the death-scene photos were first shown to the family by Rosemont police during a meeting to update the family on the death investigation.
The lawyers also said Rosemont police had previously denied “numerous requests to review the reports, photographs and videos secured by the department.”
“Numerous requests for any and all videos and photos showing Ms. Jenkins going into the freezer of her own volition have not been forthcoming, and quite frankly raise more questions than answers as to how and why Ms. Jenkins was found in the condition in which she was located,” the attorneys also said.
There has been no indication from police that any surveillance video exists that directly shows Jenkins entering the freezer where she was found. But motion-sensor cameras in the kitchen indicate no one else went into the freezer area of the kitchen for days prior to Jenkins entering the kitchen, and no one entered the area after that until the time her body was discovered, according to police reports and surveillance video.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office had already classified Jenkins’ death as accidental and caused by hypothermia, with alcohol intoxication listed as a contributing factor.
Rosemont police also said in their release Friday that the hotel room where the party took place was booked with a fraudulent credit card and that they believe they have identified two perpetrators who booked the room. Police said they are “affiliated with a gang on the West Side of Chicago whose operations rely heavily on the use of fraudulent credit cards.”
Police said that case is still ongoing.