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Woman reported missing, found dead in bathroom at S.C. shopping center

The coroner's office has confirmed her identify and an autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Lexington County Coroner has confirmed the identity of the woman found dead in the restroom of a Belk store at the Columbiana Center Mall.  

According to Coroner Margaret Fisher, Bessie Durham, 63, of Columbia was found deceased shortly after 8 p.m. Monday by a store employee in a public bathroom located inside the Belk located off Harbison Boulevard. 

Belk confirmed in a statement that this was a family restroom, and Durham did housekeeping for the store through an outside contractor company. 

"First and foremost, we send our deepest condolences to the family of Bessie Durham," the company said in a statement. "We are actively working to piece together what happened. Meanwhile, we have also made counselors available to associates seeking support."

The coroner's office says Durham was last seen alive on store surveillance cameras entering the bathroom area on Thursday, September 15, 2022 at approximately 7:00 a.m. and was not seen exiting that area again. That was four and a half days before she was later found. 

An autopsy for Durham is scheduled for September 22, 2022 at MUSC in Charleston. At this time, foul play is not suspected.

The Lexington County Coroner’s Office will continue to investigate this incident

On Monday at 8:45 p.m. Columbia Police say they responded to a missing person's report in a neighborhood off Monticello Road where family there reported a female missing. The woman hadn't been heard from since Thursday, September 15.

This was around the time Durham was found dead by store employees. 

Officers responding to the Belk location found out through their investigation that it was one in the same case -- the woman found dead was the woman reported missing. 

CPD is continuing its investigation and has interviewed and taken statements from employees at Belk. The family of the woman has been working with law enforcement.

Investigators are looking at open and closing procedures at the mall. 

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