Mum of US teenager found dead in hotel freezer sues for $50 million

The mother of a teenager who died of hypothermia in a hotel freezer is suing for US$50 million (NZ$73 million).

Kenneka Jenkins, 19, was partying with her friends at Chicago's Crowne Plaza O'Hare Hotel in the early hours of September 9 2017.

At about 4:30am her friends called her mother, Tereasa Martin, to tell her they couldn't find Ms Jenkins.

Ms Martin arrived at the hotel to look for her daughter shortly afterwards, but was told by staff she couldn't look at any CCTV footage until she made a missing persons report to police.

Police officially notified the Crowne Plaza that Ms Jenkins was missing the following afternoon.

A search of the building turned up no signs of the young woman, although CCTV footage showed her "staggering" drunk and alone near the front desk the night before.

Eventually Ms Jenkins' body was found in the hotel's walk-in freezer, more than 20 hours after she was first noticed to be missing. She had died of hypothermia.

Now Ms Martin is suing the Crowne Plaza, as well as the security company and the hotel's adjoining restaurant, for $50 million.

She claims the restaurant failed to properly secure their freezer, and that the hotel and security staff did not adequately search for her daughter when she was missing.

An autopsy said the freezer had an internal mechanism allowing it to be opened from the inside, but Ms Martin's lawsuit alleges the sticker with opening instructions on it was so faded it was unreadable to someone inside the freezer.

The lawsuit also claims several hotel employees saw Ms Jenkins wandering the hallways and could have helped her, and that security should have shut down the party she was attending because there were dozens of people in a small room with a "strong" smell of alcohol.

A Crowne Plaza spokesperson told The Chicago Tribune the death was a "tragedy" but not the fault of the hotel, and they intend to "vigorously contest" the lawsuit.

An autopsy ruled that a combination of alcohol and a drug used to treat epilepsy and migraines also contributed to Ms Jenkins' death.

"[I'm] horrified," Ms Martin told The Tribune shortly after the death of her daughter.

"It's something that no one could ever imagine. It's unbelievable."


Contact Newshub with your story tips: