Young Woman Found In Freezer Had Alcohol, Prescription Drug In System

By Kelly Burch 10/20/17

The coroner’s office recently announced the contributing factors of the untimely, accidental death of 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins.

Kenneka Jenkins
19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins Photo via YouTube

When 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins was found dead in a freezer at the Crowne Plaza O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois on September 10th, many were horrified, assuming that the young woman had been killed by someone who later hid her body. However, police now say that the real culprit in Jenkins’ death was topiramate and alcohol. 

According to The Chicago Tribune, Jenkins wandered into an unused walk-in freezer in the hotel, and was presumably unable to get back out. She was discovered dead by an employee about 24 hours after she was reported missing.

The Cook County Medical Examiner ruled that the death was caused by hypothermia, naming alcohol intoxication and topiramate (an epilepsy and migraine drug) as "significant contributing factors.”

In addition to making Jenkins so impaired that she was unable to get out of the freezer, the substances in her system could have helped hypothermia to set in more quickly than it normally would, said the medical examiner. 

"Alcohol and topiramate are synergistic. When combined, the effect of either or both drugs is enhanced. Topiramate, like alcohol, can cause dizziness, impaired memory, impaired concentration, poor coordination, confusion and impaired judgment," said the coroner, according to CBS News. "Central nervous system depression, or impairment, combined with cold exposure can hasten the onset of hypothermia and death.”

According to CBS, Jenkins’ family members said that she did not have a prescription for topiramate. Her blood alcohol level was 0.112 and she had “therapeutic” levels of topiramate in her blood, according to the coroner’s office.

Police reports and other documents released last week show that Jenkins was at the hotel for a party, where she reportedly drank heavily. Her friends left her alone while they went to look for her cell phone and wallet, and that’s when Jenkins seems to have wandered off. 

On September 15, the Rosemont police department released hotel surveillance video that shows Jenkins stumbling down the halls of the hotel, bumping into walls. 

When Jenkins was found she was wearing only one shoe, but had no signs of trauma or struggle. She did have a small cut on her foot.

In a column for The Chicago Tribune, reporter Dahleen Glanton said that the death could have been avoided.

“It is understandable that we would be reluctant to report a young person for making what might have seemed like a harmless mistake. But if someone had taken it seriously, perhaps Kenneka would still be alive,” she wrote. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.