Social Media and the Kenneka Jenkins Case

By: Nia Waller

Online Section Writer

On Sept. 19, 2017 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel, an innocent gathering of friends turned to tragedy.

Kenneka Jenkins arrived at the Crowne Plaza around 1 a.m., what happened after that point has been disputed. Around 4 a.m., Jenkin’s friends called the police to report her missing. After an intensive search, she was found in an empty hotel freezer.

From these facts alone, the case is admittedly sketchy. Before any other news could be released, hundreds fled to social media to share their perspectives on the case. Social media sleuths hooked on to the idea that Kenneka was “sold” for $200 to be raped, murdered and then eventually put inside the freezer.
These are just a few of the tweets people immediately took for fact on the case. Many went as far as sending death threats to the “friends” at the party.

I am still baffled about what exactly brought these self proclaimed FBI agents to this conclusion. In the video that went viral after the incident, Jenkins’ friend is seen at the party looking into her camera and listening to music. The Twitter detectives propose that you can hear Jenkins calling out for help, and the amount of $200 being mentioned in the video. I, for one, hear nothing of the sort.


Still, it is wild to me that a six minute video where the victim is never actually seen led so many to a conclusion that Jenkins was set up for rape and murder for only $200.

Unfortunately, the truth of Jenkins’ death is much less dramatic, but just as tragic. As Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat users alike spammed the internet with assumptions and confusing conclusions, Chicago Police discovered real answers. They found video footage of Jenkins limping through the Crowne Plaza late that night, obviously intoxicated.

I wanted to post the video here, but it is impossible to find any footage that hasn’t been altered in some way by Youtubers.

Toxicology reports found that Jenkins had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.112, well over the legal limit of 0.08. Although Jenkins’ mother did point to the hotel for foul play in her daughter’s death, she admitted “one cup was too much” for her daughter. This amount of alcohol, as well as a therapeutic amount of epilepsy medicine in her veins quickened the process of hypothermia in that freezer.

What sounds more plausible, a teenager who drank too much and stumbled into her early death, or a Lifetime Television movie plot in which teenagers team up to kill one of their own friends for a mere $200?

When finally questioned about the $200, the kids at the party said that it was the amount of a parking ticket that Jenkins would get if she didn’t move her car.

As for the rape, Jenkins had no physical signs of such. No vaginal tearing, no semen. Her only injury was a small bruise on her foot.

After these facts have come to surface about the case, the social media users that were a part of the tide that pushed the rhetoric have been oddly quiet. None of the self proclaimed detectives have said anything about the updates about the case, or bothered to apologize for the internet frenzy they caused. I propose that this is much more than a case of mistaken information. Countless police resources were wasted on unbacked leads, the teens that were relentlessly hounded on social media weren’t allowed to grieve for their own friend and a mother is left still confused about the death of her child.

We, as social media users, have a responsibility to share things that are well thought out, and well backed. The epidemic of “Twitter fingers” is more dangerous than we ever could think. Although it is natural for anyone, especially African Americans, to have a distrust for the justice system, we must use the power that we have been given to be watchdogs with credibility. Let’s point our concerns in the right direction, like the importance of being a responsible drinker, and do good instead of adding unnecessary trouble to an already tragic experience.

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