A South Carolina department store janitor’s body has been discovered in a mall bathroom four days after she was last seen, authorities said.
Bessie Durham, 63, was found dead Monday in a bathroom stall at the Belk store in Columbiana Center, Columbia police said.
Her cleaning cart was outside the restroom.
Durham was last seen on surveillance footage entering the bathroom on Thursday, Sept. 15. She was not seen exiting the restroom.
The Lexington County Coroner’s Office said there was no evidence of foul play or drug use. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday in Charleston.
Columbia Deputy Police Chief Melron Kelly told WIS-TV that Durham’s body was discovered shortly after her family filed a missing persons report.
“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,” he said.
Kelly confirmed that the Belk store was open through the weekend, and police are currently investigating whether any employees were negligent.
“We’re still working with the store to find out what their process is to closing down the store, inspecting the store and things of that nature,” he stated.
“First and foremost, we send our deepest condolences to the family of the housekeeping associate who was employed by KBS, which provides cleaning services at our Columbiana Centre location,” Belk said in a conciliatory statement.
“At this time, we are working with KBS to determine the details around what happened. We have also made counselors available to Belk and KBS associates seeking support.”
Meanwhile, shoppers interviewed outside the mall on Tuesday were shocked and disgusted by the gruesome discovery.
“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” said Beverly Stroman of Columbia.
“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,” said another customer.
Durham’s neighbors were similarly distraught.
“She gone be missed around here,” said Theresa Boston, who lived across the street from Durham.
“She was a loving person. I hate that [this] happened.”
Boston said the store should provide answers to what happened to her friend.
“My first thought was how could you not know a person was here when their cart is by the bathroom?” she demanded.
“You got a check-in schedule you know when they clock in and clock out. That’s just slack on they part and yes they should be held accountable.”
“The fact that she never clocked out or nothing, seemed like that should’ve been a red flag,” concurred Ike Abney, another neighbor.