While the death of Shanquella Robinson is as shocking as it is horrific, the circumstances under which she died are unfortunately eerily similar to those we have seen in recent years with two other Black women, in particular.
Robinson, 25, died during a trip to Mexico last month while she was with her friends, some or possibly all of whom may have played a role in her death. Video footage purportedly from the trip showed a violent and brutal one-sided fight with the person identified as Robinson being on the receiving end of the beating.
But conflicting reports from the people identified as Robinson’s friends – they said she died from alcohol poisoning – and Mexican officials – who performed an autopsy that determined her neck and spine were broken – coupled with a delayed investigation from law enforcement have prompted more questions than answers.
All of Robinson’s friends on the trip have denied any wrongdoing while the court of social media has already ruled all of them guilty of playing a role in the death.
That last part is one of several things that Robinson’s death has in common with the deaths of both Tamla Horsford and Kenneka Jenkins – two Black women who died in spite of the fact that their friends were nearby.
The FBI is reportedly investigating Robinson’s death, which is more than what happened with Horsford and Jenkins. In what could be an ominous sign, neither the death of Horsford nor Jenkins was ever solved, no criminal charges were brought and no one was ever held accountable.
In all three cases, the blame has largely been on alcohol consumption without definitive proof that is what contributed to each of their deaths.
On Sept. 9, 2017, 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins was found dead inside a walk-in freezer in a hotel in suburban Chicago where she and her friends were partying.
Images posted on social media showed Jenkins and friends in a Crowne Plaza hotel room in the city of Rosemont. At some point, Jenkins was shown waiting in the hallway for her friends so they could leave the party together. However, her friends said she disappeared when they went to meet her in the corridor.
Jenkins was found hours later on Sept. 10, 2017, 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 placed 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.
An attorney for Jenkins’ family claimed someone could have locked the 19-year-old in the double walk-in freezer.
“We believe that it’s very possible … for reasons that we cannot explain, without ever looking in the freezer, someone came and locked this freezer door so that Kenneka could not exit the door,” Geoffrey Fieger said more than a year after Jenkins was found dead. “There have not been adequate answers that have been provided by the Crowne Plaza Hotel. We have the police report, we have what they have described to us the video. The most revealing piece of the video is that we see Kenneka entering this kitchen that was under construction.”
More than five years later, Jenkins’s death has still not been solved.
A little more than one year after Jenkins’ suspicious death, Tamla Horsford was found dead in the backyard of the home of her friends following what’s been described as a slumber party for mothers of children who played on a football team in Cumming, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta in Forsythe County on Nov. 4, 2018.
Following the reports of her death, Horsford, a 40-year-old married mother of five, became the subject of social media conspiracies and her hname became a hashtag, just like the cases of Robinson and Jenkins.
Unlike their cases, though, Horsford was the only Black person at her “party” with seven other white women
Coverage by ESSENCE noted that an autopsy found she died from “multiple blunt force injuries.” However, authorities attributed Horsford’s injuries to the results of “acute ethanol intoxication” and quickly ruled her death an accident.
“Even so, online there have been murmurs of foul play, with many questioning the circumstances of her death,” ESSENCE reported. “In one case, one witness, an officer within the Forsyth County court system, allegedly accessed the incident report from the death through his office, raising eyebrows.”
Police closed the case about three months after Horsford was found dead and denied claims any of the other women at the sumber party played a role in the death despite rampant speculation on social media, local news outlet 11 Alive reported at the time.
Horsford was found with “various, small abrasions to her head and neck and a laceration on her heart” in addition to suffering a dislocated right wrist that had a one-inch cut on it, 11 Alive added. “There were also smaller abrasions on her legs and arms.”
In a letter to Horsford’s husband, a family attorney said an independent review found “that a homicide is a strong possibility. Witness statements are in conflict. A potential subject handled the body as well as the evidence prior to the law enforcement arrival.”
The lawyer called it “remarkable” that no responding law enforcement agency ever took photos during Horsford’s autopsy. “This had been done at someone’s directive because such a practice is unheard of,” the lawyer added.
The lawyer also introduced race into his findings and said that in his professional experience, “80% of cases where African Americans die under mysterious circumstances, end up closed or cold because there are no videos and the only witnesses are bad guys, or good guys that deep down are really bad.”
None of that prompted any criminal charges.
Last year, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation closed its case and concluded that its “ investigative findings do not support pursuit and prosecution of criminal charges.”