May 21, 2024
Bessie Durham died all alone in the bathroom of a South Carolina store she entered to clean on Sept. 15. And in death, she lay alone -- through Friday, Saturday,...

Bessie Durham died all alone in the bathroom of a South Carolina store she entered to clean on Sept. 15. And in death, she lay alone — through Friday, Saturday, Sunday and part of Monday. Alone.

The 63-year-old woman was found dead Monday evening in the Belk department store at Columbiana Mall of Columbia, South Carolina, according to WYFF-TV. Police were called after she was found.

The cart that had her cleaning supplies was found outside the bathroom.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said, according to WIS-TV.

She said that surveillance video documented some of Durham’s final moments.


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“So, the footage shows that Ms. Durham comes in the store, and we see her walk into the area where the bathroom is located. At 6:20 she walks into that area of the bathroom and then she’s never shown on the video coming out of that bathroom,” she said.

Fisher has put the time of Durham’s death at about 7 a.m. on the 15th.

Fisher told WYFF that the door locked behind Durham after she entered it.

“For us to enter that bathroom, we were given a key when we arrived on the scene,” Fisher said. “The bathroom door locked behind you, and you would have to have a key to get back in.”

“Her family will not have the opportunity to view their mother because of the state that she was in,” Fisher said.

Democratic state Rep. Jermaine Johnson said the story was a sad sign of the times.

“When I first read about this story, I immediately felt bad for the woman. I felt bad for the family, I felt bad for everyone that’s involved in the situations,” he said, according to WACH-TV.


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“These individuals need to know that somebody cares. Right now I feel so bad for this woman who had to die alone in a bathroom stall somewhere, just doing her job to survive.”

Columbia police said Durham’s family filed a missing person report on the day her body was found.

Belk released the following statement: “First and foremost, we send our deepest condolences to the family of Bessie Durham, who was found inside a family restroom at our Columbiana Centre location. Ms. Durham provided housekeeping services through her employer, an outside contractor company that provides cleaning services for the store. We are actively working to piece together what happened,” according to WACH.

Melron Kelly, Columbia’s deputy chief of police, said the department was investigating the case, according to WYFF.

“We’re still working with the mall to find out what their processes are for closing down the store, inspecting the store, and things of that nature, because we do know that the person has been there for more than a day. So, we’re still going through the footage to see just how long they’ve been there,” he said.