The family of the Little River woman who was gunned down in the Myrtle Beach Mall parking lot in January filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the mall this week, saying in court papers that the shopping center lacked adequate security staff and properly working surveillance cameras.
Frances “Mae” Davis was shot in the head on Jan. 8 — a day before her 79th birthday. Davis had been shopping with her daughter, Shelly Wells, when Wells went inside J.C. Penney around noon.
Davis stayed behind in the white Kia. When Wells returned to the vehicle about 15 minutes later, she found her mother slumped over in the front passenger seat. Davis was unconscious. Her purse and cell phone were missing.
I wish I could tell you differently. We’ve got no leads or anything.
Horry County Police Lt. Raul Denis
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In the weeks following the shooting, billboards seeking information about Davis’s murder went up. The reward money from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for details increased from $5,000 to $10,000.
But police have been unable to make any arrests or identify any suspects.
“I wish I could tell you differently,” said Horry County Police Lt. Raul Denis. “We’ve got no leads or anything.”
Michele Gagne, Davis’ daughter and the representative of her estate, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday. Her attorney, Ian Maguire, could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit states that the mall has a duty to protect its visitors and the shopping center’s negligence led to Davis’ death.
In the months before the shooting, other violent crimes had been committed at the mall, which “was unsafe and posed risks of danger to the public,” according to the lawsuit.
On Christmas Eve, about two weeks before Davis was murdered, there was a purse snatching in the J.C. Penney parking lot. In that case, a 78-year-old woman was pushed to the ground by a man wearing all black, who placed his foot on her cheek and took her wallet and car keys, according to a police report.
The safety of our shoppers and employees is our top priority, and as part of our commitment to promoting a safe shopping environment, we maintain a highly trained staff that's prepared to respond to a variety of emergency situations
Joe Perl, Myrtle Beach Mall general manager
ATF also offered a reward for information about some home robberies that had occurred in that area around the same time “on the off chance that they were connected,” said Denis, the county police spokesman.
However, police could never establish a direct link between those crimes and Davis’s killing.
In court papers, Davis’s family asserts that before the shooting the mall “was on notice” that the facility needed to develop written procedures and policies to deter crime, have functioning outside surveillance cameras and train staff to ensure the mall was safe.
The lawsuit also states that the mall didn’t properly manage security staff, lacked enough of those workers and employed people who were unfit for the job.
“The Defendant had knowledge that these persons were likely to fail to provide sufficient security and safety procedures and Defendant failed to remediate the situation,” the lawsuit states.
The family is seeking unspecified damages.
Joe Perl, the mall’s general manager, could not be reached for comment on Thursday. In February, he told The Sun News that the mall’s staff was qualified to handle security.
“The safety of our shoppers and employees is our top priority, and as part of our commitment to promoting a safe shopping environment, we maintain a highly trained staff that's prepared to respond to a variety of emergency situations,” Perl said then. “We take numerous proactive measures to coordinate with local officials, and we do that as a form of best practices.”
Anyone with information about Davis’s death is asked to call the Horry County police at 843-915-8477.