CHICAGO (CBS) -- The family of a 19-year-old woman who died of hypothermia inside a hotel walk-in freezer in 2017 has reached a settlement agreement with the hotel, its security company, and the hotel's restaurant.
Kenneka Jenkins was found dead inside a walk-in freezer at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare Hotel in Rosemont early on Sept. 10, 2017, after she went to the complex late on Sept. 8 for a private party in a room there. The circumstances surrounding her death generated controversy, with friends and family members questioning whether foul play had occurred -- and whether police mishandled the case.
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Jenkins' death an accident. Medical authorities say she died from hypothermia after being exposed to cold. Toxicology tests detected alcohol and topiramate, an epilepsy/migraine medication, in the woman's system, which contributed to her death, the M.E.'s office said.
In 2018, Jenkins' mother, Tereasa Martin,against the hotel's parent company, security firm, and restaurant, claiming staff were negligent because they didn't secure the walk-in freezer or conduct a proper search when Jenkins went missing.
The suit says that staff failed to monitor security cameras that would have alerted them to Jenkins' whereabouts, thus preventing her death.
The lawsuit sought $50 million in damages.
According to Cook County Circuit Court records, the two sides agreed to settle the lawsuit in August, but terms of the agreement have not been made public, as Jenkins' family is seeking to keep the deal under seal, citing safety and privacy concerns. According to the filing, the defendants also have agreed the settlement agreement should remain sealed.
"The widespread publicity of this case, including uncontrolled speculation and social media commentary, has resulted in various threats made against various individuals in the case," Martin's attorneys wrote. "One of the main terms of the settlement for all parties was maintaining the confidentiality of the settlement."
Jenkins, a 19-year-old Chicago resident, was found dead inside a freezer at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare Hotel early Sept. 10, 2017, after she went to to the complex late Sept. 8 for a private party in a room there. The circumstances surrounding her death generated controversy, with friends and family members questioning whether foul play had occurred -- and whether police mishandled the case.
Kenneka Jenkins Lawsuit on Scribd
In October 2017, Rosemont police released a timeline of Jenkins' last hours and other evidence, including audio recordings and photographs of Jenkins' body in the compartment where she was found.
Police said they interviewed 44 people -- 30 were in the hotel room where the party was that weekend. The police report said the credit card used to pay for the room was fraudulent and was linked to a gang on Chicago's West Side.
"While there were many theories, rumors, and much speculation floating around social media regarding the death of Ms. Jenkins, none were supported with facts," police said in their final report.
Jenkins' final documented moments were these, according to Rosemont police:
- She left her home on the West Side of Chicago at 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 8.
- At 1:13 a.m. on Sept. 9, she arrived at Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare Hotel to attend a private party in a hotel room.
- Surveillance video time-stamped 3:25 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, showed Jenkins exiting a lower-level elevator.
- At 3:32 a.m., she was last seen on surveillance video moving through a first-floor kitchen.
- At 7:14 a.m., Jenkins' mother called Rosemont Public Safety to report her daughter missing.
- At 12:46 p.m., Jenkins' sister filed a missing persons report at the Rosemont police station. Officers searched the hotel and reviewed surveillance video as the day progressed.
- At 12:25 a.m. on Sept. 10, a hotel employee found Jenkins' body. She was pronounced dead at the scene.