The photos of Kenneka Jenkins’ dead body released this week have caused an uproar among those who believe that the teenager who died locked in a freezer was murdered, but experts say the pictures actually reveal her natural cause of death.
The 19-year-old Jenkins was killed last month after she was somehow locked into a walk-in freezer in the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont, a village outside Chicago. The Cook County medical examiner ruled her death was an accident, and on Friday the Rosemont Public Safety Department announced that they had completed an investigation and found no signs of foul play.
The department ultimately agreed with the determination of the medical examiner that Jenkins died from hypothermia along with intoxication caused by a combination of alcohol and a prescription drug used to treat epilepsy and migraine, ABC 7 Chicago reported.
With the completion of the investigation, the department also released several photos of of Kenneka Jenkins’ dead body inside the freezer, which Newsweek noted only generated more controversy. The photos showed Jenkins missing a shoe and her clothing dirty and disheveled, leading many to believe that the teenager had been raped.
But experts say the pictures are consistent with a victim of hypothermia. In the final stages of freezing to death, the process of conserving heat in blood vessels fails, sending a rush of warm blood to the extremities, Live Science noted. The report added that this makes victims feel as if they are overheating, leading to a phenomena known as “paradoxical undressing” where they take off clothing and ultimately speed up the process of hypothermia.
“This results in a kind of ‘hot flash’ that makes victims of severe hypothermia — who are already confused and disoriented — feel as though they’re burning up, so they remove their clothes, researchers have concluded,” the report noted.
This could explain why the photos appeared to show Kenneka Jenkins in a state of undress, and the next step of hypothermia after paradoxical undressing could explain why she appeared to be covered in dirt. The freezer itself appeared to be out of use and dirty, and in the final phase of hypothermia a victim will attempt to burrow into something as a final mechanism against freezing, Live Science noted.
Despite the explanations of why Kenneka Jenkins likely died of natural causes, the photos of her dead body have still created some unrest among family members and many in the local community. On Saturday, one day after the pictures were released, several protesters gathered outside the hotel where she died in a demonstration against how the case was handled and the conclusion that she died of natural causes.
[Featured Image by Rosemont Public Safety Department]