Last week, Tereasa Martin, the mother of a young woman who was found dead in a freezer at a Rosemont Hotel, filed a lawsuit against the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel; its security contractor, Capital Security; and even the restaurant, Murray Bros. Caddyshack, that allegedly was renting the space where the woman was found deceased.
In the early morning hours of September 9, 2017, Kenneka Jenkins, 19, of Chicago, disappeared after attending a party held in a room of the Crowne Plaza. After the disappearance, her family went looking for her, but authorities did not find her body until 20 hours later. Surveillance video released by police showed Jenkins stumbling through the hotel until she ended up in the kitchen, and then subsequently rounding the corner where the freezer was located.
An autopsy report from the Cook County medical examiner’s office stated that Jenkins’ death was “significantly” contributed by hypothermia, along with alcohol and a drug used to treat epilepsy and migraines.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were negligent for failure to secure the freezer, which was located in an unused kitchen, and for failure to conduct a proper search when Jenkins went missing from a party.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the hotel had other walk-in freezers that were kept locked and inaccessible to the public. The freezer in which Jenkins was discovered was not only unsecured but had “a sticker affixed that was completely faded and failed to instruct how to release the lock system of the door.” In their investigation, the Rosemont police found that the door could not be opened from the inside unless a circular handle was pushed to release the hatch. According to the police, the mechanism appeared to be working properly.
Additionally, the lawsuit also claims that Jenkins had passed several hotel employees while she was wandering through the various hallways. The complaint states “[h]ad Crown Plaza defendants and employees and/or agents observed [Jenkins] visibly disoriented, confused and lost within their premises, they would have prevented her from entering the abandoned kitchen and prevented her death.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the hotel and security failed to review security camera footage with sufficient speed after Jenkins was reported missing. This alleged lack of urgency initially sparked protests outside the hotel and contributed to conspiracy theories and speculation circulating through social media.
As for the restaurant, although it did not open for business until April 2018, it had signed to lease the space in July 2017. Therefore, the complaint alleges that the restaurant should have secured off the space and ensured that the freezer was turned off.
According to the lawsuit, the family is seeking a judgment of $50 million in damages, including compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, funeral and burial costs, and punitive damages.
A spokesman for the hotel released a statement that the Crowne Plaza plans to fight the lawsuit. Representatives for both the security company and the restaurant have not yet made any public statements.