- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2022

South Carolina police are investigating how the body of a janitor who died in a department store bathroom remained undiscovered for four days.

Bessie Durham, 63, worked for Kellermeyer Bergensons Services LLC (KBS), a third-party contractor that cleans the Belk Department Store at the Columbiana Centre in Columbia. She was last seen alive on surveillance footage at around 7 a.m. Sept. 15, police said.

Durham’s family had gone to the police to file a missing person’s report, which prompted the investigation of the store and the discovery of Durham’s body on Monday.

“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,” Columbia Police Department Deputy Chief Melron Kelly told WIS-TV.

Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said an autopsy is planned for Thursday and foul play is not suspected in Durham’s death at this time, according to WIS-TV, a Columbia NBC affiliate.

Shoppers wondered how both employees and customers missed Durham over the course of a weekend.

“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,” Columbia resident Beverly Stroman told WIS-TV.

Belk issued a statement on Durham’s death, telling WIS-TV: “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. At this time, we are working with KBS to determine the details around what happened.”

Police are now continuing their investigation to see why Durham’s body went unnoticed and who, if anyone, was negligent in opening or closing the store facilities.

“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,” Deputy Chief Kelly told The Associated Press.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.

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