One year after Kenneka Jenkins was found dead in the walk-in freezer of a Chicago suburb hotel, her family will mark the anniversary with a vigil and a renewed demand for justice.
Jenkins’ mother, Teresa Martin, is calling for an independent investigation into exactly what led to her 19-year-old daughter’s death, WLS-TV reported.
In the meantime, family and friends held a vigil Sunday outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, where the teenager died after partying with friends. Another gathering was planned for Monday.
In a Facebook post, Martin thanked those who were able to attend on Sunday and asked supporters to “please send your prayers for justice for Kenneka.”
Images posted on social media showed Jenkins and friends partying on September 9, 2017, in a Crowne Plaza hotel room. At some point, Jenkins was waiting in the hallway for her friends so they could leave the party together. She had disappeared when her friends came out into the corridor, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Jenkins was found hours later, dead inside the hotel’s walk-in freezer.
The mystery surrounding her death set off an avalanche of conspiracy theories—from one that said the teenager was killed during a sexual assault and place inside the freezer to folks who believe she was killed by people who sell human organs.
Local police appeared uninterested in conducting an extensive investigation, which fueled the conspiracies and prompted angry protests about the devaluing of Black lives.
Ultimately, investigators concluded that Jenkins was intoxicated and stumbled alone through the hotel’s hallways and simply walked into the freezer where she died.
An autopsy concluded that she died of hypothermia, with alcohol and a drug used to treat epilepsy and migraines “significant contributing factors.” There were no signs of trauma to her body. Authorities also released dozens of photos, surveillance footage and documents to support their conclusions.
With no new evidence, it appears unlikely that federal investigators will look into this case, Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens told the Tribune.
Still, the teenager’s family has not given up hope that authorities will reopen the case.