Augusta’s Morning News with John Patrick & Mary Liz Nolan

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A 63-year-old woman who was working as a janitor at the Belk store at Columbiana Mall in Columbia was found dead in a bathroom she had been cleaning on  Monday.  Authorities say an investigation has revealed Bessie Durham was last seen working at the store last Thursday.  Her cleaning cart had been sitting outside the bathroom for four days before her body was found.

An investigation began after Durham’s family filed a missing person’s report with Columbia Police.  Authorities are trying to figure out how no one noticed Durham in the bathroom or that she hadn’t been seen in days.

Melron Kelly, Columbia Police Department Deputy Chief, said “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.  We’re still going through the footage to see just how long they’ve been there.”  Kelly said the police investigation will reveal whether any charges should be filed against Belk.  He said no one at the store had even questioned why Durham’s cleaning cart had been sitting outside the bathroom for four days.

Belk officials issued the following statement:  “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.  We have also made counselors available to Belk and KBS associates seeking support.”

An autopsy on Durham is scheduled this week to determine the cause of her death.


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