Still plagued by grief and frustration from a lack of answers, the daughters of an elderly woman gunned down at Myrtle Beach Mall nearly two years ago struggle to move forward.
“It’s just been the same, like it just happened. I mean nothing’s really changed with it. It’s just one day at a time,” said Michele Gagne, one of 78-year-old Frances “Mae” Davis’ daughters.
On Jan. 8, 2016, the day before her 79th birthday, Davis sat and waited in a white Kia in the Myrtle Beach Mall parking lot while her daughter, Shelly Wells, briefly shopped inside J.C. Penney. She was fatally wounded by a gunshot about noon that day, her purse taken, according to her daughters, and two years later the case is still unsolved.
“It just boggles my mind how anyone could do that to an elderly person that wasn’t bothering a soul,” said Wells, who said she still can’t drive by the mall and will travel miles out of her way to avoid passing it.
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Wells was in the mall only about 15 minutes, but when she returned to the car, she discovered her mother slumped over and unconscious, and she called 911 in a panic.
The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the mall, charging in court papers that the shopping center didn’t have adequate security staff and properly functioning surveillance cameras. The lawsuit remains pending.
“We do not comment on pending litigation, but would urge anyone that has information on this situation to contact the Horry County police,” said Joe Perl, general manager of Myrtle Beach Mall.
Wells said she still feels racked with guilt over her decision to stop at the mall that day.
“I’m the one that made the decision to stop, and I still deal with that guilt of I’m the one that stopped. I should have just kept on going,” Wells said. “If I would have kept on going, she’d still be here.”
While Wells carries that burden, Gagne struggles over making any kind of changes to her mother’s room inside Gagne’s Little River area home.
Anxiety and fears of going out into public still grip Gagne and Wells, who said they try to get through each day by leaning on each other, their husbands, and finding comfort in counseling.
The sisters recently drove across the country to California to visit family in an effort to briefly escape all that haunts them, and said it helped some, but the same troubles were waiting when they got back.
“It was nice to be away, but as soon as I came back it was, like slam, Mom’s not here,” said Wells, and stated she contemplates leaving the area to live close to her daughter.
A family member also recently made quilts from some of Davis’ old cloths for Wells, Gagne, and other family. Things like that are a small comfort, but the lack of answers over the years keeps their wounds wide open.
The case is still an active one with the Horry County Police Department and is also assigned to a cold case group called Shields, according to Gagne, which is a group made up of retired law enforcement along the Grand Strand.
Gagne says she’s been frustrated by a lack communication from police over her mother’s case, and wanted to send out a plea to the public for information.
“Somebody knows something. Somebody please come forward. … I know that I’m not going to get closure from this until that.”
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has offered a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) who killed Davis, and Davis’ brother has agreed to match that, offering an additional $10,000.
Krystal Dotson, Horry County police spokeswoman, said the following via email on the case:
“I’m sure you can imagine, prematurely releasing information is counterproductive to any investigation.”
She also said “tips are welcome and encouraged to be shared at 843-915-8477 or CrimeTips@HorryCounty.org.”
This year on Davis’ birthday, Gagne and Wells said they will have a private celebration for their mother and will likely release balloons in her honor.