A woman was stabbed to death and two men were fatally shot, Coroner Gary Watts said. They were found near a public housing complex where the woman lived; the woman's apartment, where Chief Dean Crisp said at least one victim was killed, was cordoned off.
Police said a resident of the apartment complex reported seeing the bodies in the pipe, which is wider than 3 feet. Police also received a call about gunshots in the area, but Crisp said he was unsure whether it was related.
Soon after police announced they were looking for Charles Gamble, investigators found the 24-year-old Columbia man and began questioning him. Police described him only as a "person of interest," not a suspect, and they said he was not arrested.
Crisp said authorities think the man "has some contacts with this residence, where the murder occurred," but did not say what relationships, if any, he had to the victims. They were identified as Charlene Octavia Yarbrough, 19, Marcus Antonio Wilson, 26, and Marquis Mitchell, 25.
Rodrena Patrick, who lives in the apartment complex and said she was a close friend of Yarbrough, said Gamble was Yarbrough's ex-boyfriend and the father of the woman's baby boy. The child was taken into protective custody.
Patrick, 20, said Gamble had been living at the apartment complex until the couple got into a fight about a month ago.
Investigators were looking at several possible motives, including a possible domestic dispute, Columbia police spokeswoman Sgt. Florence McCants said.
Gamble, who has a criminal record dating back to a 2000 grand larceny charge, was on probation for a stalking conviction, Crisp said.