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 December 16, 2023

Family agrees to $10M settlement after teen daughter was found in freezer

In a tragic twist of events, a young life was cut short in the most unexpected manner.

The family of Kenneka Jenkins, a 19-year-old found deceased in a hotel freezer, has settled a legal battle with the hotel for $10 million.

Kenneka Jenkins, only 19, was attending a party at the Crowne Plaza Chicago-O'Hare Hotel in September 2017.

The following day, a grim discovery was made: her lifeless body inside a walk-in freezer. The case quickly gained public attention, with many questioning the circumstances leading to such a tragic end.

Disturbing discovery sparks outrage

Over 21 agonizing hours passed before Jenkins was found. Despite extensive search efforts, the delay in locating her raised serious concerns. Authorities ultimately ruled her death an accident, attributing it to a combination of hypothermia, ethanol and medication intoxication, and exposure to the cold.

Jenkins' medical condition, which included migraines and epilepsy, reportedly left her disoriented. This crucial detail painted a harrowing picture of her final moments, alone and vulnerable in the cold confines of the freezer.

Her mother, Tereasa Martin, devastated by the loss, pursued legal action against the hotel, a restaurant, and a security company. She sought over $50 million, alleging negligence in both the search for her daughter and securing the freezer area. The lawsuit hinged on the claim that proper surveillance and timely action could have prevented this tragedy.

Legal battle uncovers negligence

The lawsuit's details revealed concerning oversights. Surveillance footage, crucial in piecing together Jenkins' last known movements, was reportedly not reviewed until hours after her disappearance was noted. This delay, the family argued, was a critical failure on the part of the hotel staff.

"The lawsuit also claimed that if hotel staff had monitored the security cameras, Jenkins' life would have been 'saved'," reported CNN. A chilling reminder of the importance of vigilance and timely response in emergency situations.

The legal battle, spanning five years, culminated in a settlement agreement in December 2022. The $10 million settlement, while substantial, came with no admission of wrongdoing from the defendants. This aspect of the settlement has left many to ponder the true accountability in such tragic circumstances.

The impact of the settlement

Financially, the settlement is divided amongst Jenkins' family members and legal representatives. Tereasa Martin is set to receive approximately $3.7 million. Other family members will receive sums of $1.5 million and $1.2 million. The legal team is allocated over $3.5 million for their services, and a small portion, over $6,000, is designated for Jenkins' funeral costs.

This division of funds highlights the often-complex nature of legal settlements, balancing between compensating the bereaved family and covering legal expenses. It also brings to light the often-overlooked costs, such as funeral expenses, in the wake of such tragedies.

The conclusion of this legal battle marks an end to a chapter filled with sorrow and unanswered questions. However, it also serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of safety and vigilance in public spaces.

Lessons to Learn from This Tragedy

In reflecting on this tragedy, several lessons emerge that are crucial for public awareness and safety:

  1. Emergency Preparedness: The delay in finding Jenkins underscores the need for prompt and thorough search efforts in missing person cases, especially in large venues like hotels.
  2. Vigilance in Surveillance: Monitoring security cameras can be vital in preventing or quickly responding to emergencies.
  3. Medication Awareness: Understanding the effects of medications, especially in situations involving alcohol, is crucial for personal safety.
  4. Public Space Safety: This incident highlights the importance of securing potentially dangerous areas in public spaces to prevent similar tragedies.

It's vital to remember that despite taking precautions, crime can occur to anyone. Victim blaming is never justified, and our focus should be on improving safety and awareness.

In Summary

  • 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins died in a hotel freezer in 2017.
  • Her death was ruled an accident, exacerbated by intoxication and medical conditions.
  • A $10 million legal settlement was reached with the hotel and related companies.
  • No wrongdoing was admitted by the defendants in the settlement.
  • The settlement highlights issues of public space safety and emergency response.

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Written By: Rampart Stonebridge

I'm Rampart Stonebridge, a curious and passionate writer who can't get enough of true crime. As a criminal investigative journalist, I put on my detective hat, delving deep into each case to reveal the hidden truths. My mission? To share engaging stories and shed light on the complexities of our mysterious world, all while satisfying your curiosity about the intriguing realm of true crime.
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