Neighbors remember woman found dead in department store restroom

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Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 8:40 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS/Gray News) - According to officials with the Belk department store, 63-year-old Bessie Durham worked for a company called KBS, which provides cleaning services for not only the store but the entire mall, WIS reported.

It’s believed that Durham’s body was in a restroom at Belk for four days before she was found.

The family bathroom where the body was found is currently no longer open to the public and has a white sign taped to the door that says it’s out of order.

Several of Durham’s neighbors remember her as the light of their community.

“She’s going to be missed around here,” said Theresa Boston, who lived across the street from Durham.

Boston said she was more than just a neighbor. She was a friend.

She said, “She was a loving person. I hate that happened. She loved her kids real bad. She got along with everybody. Everybody loved her. Everybody called her mama.”

Boston said Durham will be remembered for her generosity, saying she would often cook food and share it with people in the neighborhood, but she said she was also a family woman. Boston would often see Durham’s family stop by her home.

“She had two little grandkids that used to come over. I remember I would always compliment them because they had bows in their heads,” said Boston.

And she remembers seeing Durham leave her house that Thursday morning, but she didn’t know that was the last time she’d see her.

A report from the coroner’s office says that Durham could be seen on surveillance footage entering into the bathroom where her body was found around 7 a.m. Thursday, but she never left. Her body was later discovered around 8 p.m. Monday.

Boston said, “My first thought was, ‘How could you not know a person was here when their cart is by the bathroom?’ You got a check-in schedule. You know when they clock in and clock out. That’s just slack on their part, and yes, they should be held accountable.”

“The fact that she never clocked out or nothing, seemed like that should’ve been a red flag,” said Ike Abney, Bessie Durham’s neighbor.

Boston told WIS that her family knocked on doors around the neighborhood after they didn’t hear from her.

“I was the first person they asked because I sit here and I see everything. I’m always watching. That’s why I said earlier, pay attention to your surroundings and everything around you,” said Boston.

The coroner says there’s no indication of foul play nor were there any indications of drug use. The coroner believes at this time that her death is a result of natural causes.

“She seemed like a pretty healthy lady, nice and friendly and all. It didn’t seem like she was sick or nothing,” said Abney.

While the coroner has received surveillance footage, the Columbia Police Department is still waiting on that footage to use in their investigation.

The deputy chief confirmed the bathroom Durham’s body was found in only locks from the inside.

The coroner’s office has scheduled an autopsy for Durham on Thursday.