A South Carolina woman was found dead at her job days after last being seen by security cameras. Despite a search being called for the mother, the woman was located days later in the same department store bathroom she was last recorded going into.
On Monday, Sept. 19, Bessie Durham, a 63-year-old housekeeper, was found by her co-worker in the Belk department store restroom at the Columbiana Centre around 7 a.m. An autopsy performed by Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher revealed the woman died of natural causes and had been dead for at least four days, transitioning on Sept. 15, according to WLTX.com.
A company surveillance camera captured Durham’s last moments right before she entered the restroom. No one else entered after her, confirming Fisher’s belief of no foul play.
Belk confirmed Durham’s death in a press release, stating she was hired by KBS, a facility services company, to clean the store. She also worked in other stores throughout the shopping mall.
“At this time, we are working with KBS to determine the details around what happened,” the statement continued. “We have also made counselors available to Belk and KBS associates seeking support.”
A spokesperson from KBS said the company extended its “deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Bessie Durham.”
“We have reached out to law enforcement to support their investigation and cooperate in any way we can,” the comment continued. “KBS is providing assistance and services to our other team members. We will have no further comment pending the results of any investigation in this matter.”
On Thursday, Sept. 22, her son Bobby Johnson took to social media to share the family’s thoughts on her premature death.
“The family is heartbroken with the loss of Bessie Durham,” he wrote on Facebook. “We are still in shock and asking God to provide peace during this unforeseen circumstance. The family is asking to respect their wishes and not respond to the media at this time. “
“As we grieve our loved one, we ask for your prayers and that you respect our privacy during this time,” he continued.
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On Monday, Columbia Police Department said they responded to the missing person’s report, directing them to a neighborhood near Monticello Road and initiating a search. However, by the time their wheels started rolling, the co-worker found Durham.
Deputy Chief Melron Kelly with the Columbia Police Department said, “We were with the family taking a missing person’s report, and once we were on scene and did a little investigating, we did discover the person deceased at the Belk.”
While Belk did not comment on how frequently attendants work on their respective cleaning and inspection schedules for the bathrooms, they did release a statement expressing their condolences to the bereaved family and that the company has made counseling support available to store associates.
Still, family and friends need answers.
One person named Wheeler said, “I was just there yesterday. … If I’d gone in the restroom, which I usually do a lot, you know, I don’t know, that’s just terrible.”
“You wonder why the customers didn’t see it and report it, but you would think, the employees if she’s still on the clock, would know that and go and check to see where she was,” said another person, who only went by Stroman.
“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” said Beverly Stroman, a fellow Columbian, to WISTV.
The investigation is ongoing, and while the coroner said there seems to be no foul play – criminal charges could still be brought into play based on officials’ findings.