The department store where a woman was found dead in a public bathroom is actively working to find out what happened, a spokesperson told the Chronicle.
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The body of Columbia resident Bessie Durham, 63, was found by an employee of the Belk department store at the Columbiana Centre mall Sept. 19 after being missing for nearly a week.
Durham was last seen alive on store surveillance cameras entering the bathroom area on Sept. 15 and was not seen exiting that area again.
Jessica Rohlik, senior public relations manager for the Belk company, confirmed Durham was found in a family bathroom at the Columbiana Centre store. Rohlik detailed that Durham was not a Belk employee and was employed by an outside contractor that provided housekeeping services for the store.
“First and foremost, we send our deepest condolences to the family of Bessie Durham,” Rohlik said. “We are actively working to piece together what happened.”
Belk has made counseling available for associates who are seeking support, she added.
Rohlik didn’t respond to the Chronicle’s questions about cleaning procedures for bathrooms at the Columbiana Centre Belk and if these are being re-evaluated following the discovery of Durham’s body.
Melron Kelly, deputy chief of the Columbia Police, told the Chronicle that the store’s opening and closing procedures, and their adherence to those procedures, is being investigated.
Per Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher, a Sept. 22 autopsy at MUSC in Charleston "found that Ms. Bessie Durham died of natural causes."
"The results show no indication of foul play," Fisher said in a statement.
The mall is mostly located within Lexington County, though it straddles the Richland County line in the Harbison area near Interstate 26.
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