Woman was dead in Belk department store public bathroom for four days


South Carolina police say a woman died in the public bathroom of a Columbia department store, but her body was not found for four days.

The woman, who appears to be in her early 60s, was found dead Monday in a bathroom stall at the Belk department store in Columbiana Centre, a shopping mall in the city’s northwest neighborhood, Columbia Police Department Deputy Police Chief Melron Kelly told USA TODAY.

The woman was found in a single-stall bathroom with the door locked, police said, and a cleaning cart was found outside the restroom.

So far police have not released the woman’s identity but the store, on Wednesday, identified her as Bessie Durham to USA TODAY.

The woman’s body was found after family members called police Monday and reported their mother missing, Kelly said. The family said their mother was last seen Sept. 15 headed to work at the store, Kelly said.

“At that same time, officers got a call from the store across town reporting a body that had been found,” Kelly said Wednesday.

So far, a preliminary investigation found no signs of foul play in the woman’s death, the Lexington County Coroner’s Office reported.

The autopsy will determine her cause and manner of death, officials said.

Over the four days the body was in the bathroom, the store was open for business, Kelly said.

Detectives are investigating whether anyone was negligent, Kelly said. 

“We’re working with the store and to find out what their process of shutting down and closing down the store is,” he said.

Belk spokesperson Jessica Rohlik told USA TODAY Durham provided housekeeping services through an outside contractor company that provides cleaning services for the store.





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