Columbia police questioning 'person of interest' in triple homicide

COLUMBIA — A man has been brought to Columbia police headquarters as a "person of interest" in connection with the deaths of three people at a Columbia apartment complex this morning.

The man, 25-year-old Charles Gamble, is not under arrest but was wanted for questioning in the case, Chief Dean Crisp said at a news conference this afternoon.

Gamble is on probation, but Crisp was not certain for what conviction. He did not say exactly why police want to talk to Gamble about the case.

WLTX News has reported that a small child, less than a year old, was found unharmed inside a home at the complex belonging to one of the victims.

The bodies, including that of a woman, were removed from a drainage pipe outside the public housing complex on Columbia's north side, near S.C. 277, but their identity remains a mystery.

The deaths are being treated as homicides. Crisp said Richland County Coroner Gary Watts has conducted at least one autopsy and confirmed one of the victims died of a gunshot wound.

The individuals were found in the pipe outside the Lester Drive complex in water about 3 feet deep, said Sgt. Florence McCants. The bodies were not submerged.

Richland County sheriff's deputies first responded to a call from a resident of the complex about shots fired in the area around 5 a.m., McCants said. However, authorities believe if there was a crime, it originated in the complex of single-family dwellings, which is in the city.

The bodies were removed from the pipe around 9:15 a.m. after daylight allowed officials to work without contaminating the crime scene, McCants said. The bodies were taken to the coroner's office for identification.

Little identifying information about the victims was available, other than the fact one of them was female.

Police planned a 3 p.m. news conference at the department's downtown headquarters.

Nothing in the investigation so far suggests the incident was gang related, McCants said. She said investigators were looking at a possible domestic dispute.

Police Chief Dean Crisp said he was not certain the report of gunshots early this morning was related to the deaths of the three individuals.

Dozens of onlookers gathered on the grounds of the public housing complex throughout the day.

Police blocked access to the home belong to one of the victims. Crisp said information from a forensic investigation of the home is being withheld while the investigation continues.

The home is a few hundred yards from where the bodies were found.

Read more about this story in Friday morning's The State.

— From thestate.com