According to the Cook County Medical Examiner, Kenneka died from hypothermia with alcohol and a drug used to treat epilepsy and migraines listed as “significant contributing factors.” Her death was ultimately ruled an accident, but that didn’t stop amateur sleuths who sought to solve the case from conjuring up countless conspiracy theories that explained what Chicago detectives couldn’t.
On the one-year anniversary of her death, we look back the theories that kept us scrolling social media for answers.
MUST READ: What Happened To Kenneka Jenkins?
Conspiracy #1: She Was Being Raped While Her Friends Were On FB Live
Kenneka Jenkins was partying with friends on the ninth floor of the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel & Conference Center in Rosemont before she disappeared. After a vigorous search, friends were unable to find Kenneka and called her mother, Tereasa Martin, to see if she had returned home because they couldn’t find her.
Hours later, a FB Live, showing Kenneka’s last moments, was discovered on a friend’s page. Viewers believed they could hear what sounded like a woman’s moans and screams in the background and that it was Kenneka crying out for help.
Kenneka could be seen in the reflection of her friend’s sunglasses, but reports that she was being sexually assaulted proved to be unfounded. Her friend Irene Roberts opened up about the night Kenneka went missing in an hour-long interview. According to Irene, they were all leaving the hotel with Kenneka, who was drunk. When they left the room, she realized she left her phone and keys in the room. When they went back to find her belongings Kenneka slipped away.
Conspiracy #2: Her Friends Set Her Up
A theory began circulating pointing to Kenneka’s friends. According to this narrative, her friends set her up to be raped for money. The incident turned fatal and she was murdered then dumped in the freezer. While this would explain why her clothing appeared to be falling off her body, it was debunked by surveillance footage that showed Kenneka walking alone. Skeptics bombarded her friends Irene and Monifa Shelton’s social media pages, leading to Shelton posting an emotional message about their friendship.
“Can y’all please leave me alone bro we been bestfriend since 3rd grade we did everything together literally everything we use to call ourself the nene twins 🤞🏾👭 we slept together ate together broke bread together that was my ace 💔😪it hurting me I never thought I was be doin this we suppose to be takin trips we had shit planned out I’m so sorry g 🤦🏽♀️ we sisters for life.”
Conspiracy #3: It’s A Cover-up
Tereasa Martin believes there was foul play involved in the death of her daughter. According to Martin, hotel employees wouldn’t check security footage within the first hours Kenneka went missing. And when they released the crime scene photos of Kenneka’s body were released to the public, the positioning of her body and disheveled clothing raised what her mother said was “more questions than answers.” The horrific images show Kenneka’s shirt lifted up, her pants pulled down and a shoe missing. She also had abrasions on her foot and one side of her body.
Martin appeared on the Dr. Oz show, where Oz attempted to explain why Kenneka’s clothing could have been effected by the hypothermia with a phenomenon called paradoxical undressing. According to Oz, someone suffering fatal hypothermia may feel a rush of heat when they attempt to undress themselves. However, he stated, “more than likely it’s not what happened, but it’s a possibility.” There has been no resolve why her clothing appeared that way.
Conspiracy #3: Someone Followed Her Into The Freezer
Public demand for footage of Kenneka Jenkins before her death reached a climax after Chicago activist Andrew Holmes held a press conference claiming he saw footage of Kenneka physically walking into the freezer and not coming out.
“The important part of this we always wondered and wanted to know: Did anybody pull her down there, did anybody force her down there, was anybody on the other side in the room when she got down there, and the answer to that is no,” Holmes said at the press conference.
Detectives released the footage to the public afterwards, but it didn’t show Kenneka walking in the freezer like Holmes suggested. What the surveillance did show was Kenneka drunkenly stumbling around the halls of the hotel. The video ends with the intoxicated teen walking into a deserted kitchen area but not into the freezer, which added to theories detectives were covering-up a murder.
Conspiracy Theory #5: The footage Was Altered
After police released footage of Kenneka meandering through the halls, skeptics weren’t satisfied with the conclusion. They believe the footage was edited to cover up her murder. Several videos popped up on Youtube suggesting someone else can be seen following Kenneka before the angles switch. Some even suggested the red lines on the footage prove there’s another person in proximity.
While the case has been closed and her death ruled an accident, the question, What happened to Kenneka Jenkins? still remains. Rest in peace Kenneka.