Coroner: ‘Suspicious’ death of USC student under investigation

Columbia and University of South Carolina police gather in front of 2319 Lee St.
Columbia and University of South Carolina police gather in front of 2319 Lee St. TRACY GLANTZ

Columbia police and the Richland County Coroner’s Office are investigating what the coroner is calling the “suspicious death” Wednesday of an 18-year-old University of South Carolina student.

Coroner Gary Watts said his office received a call at 10:30 a.m. that an 18-year-old male USC student found dead inside a home at 2319 Lee St. There were no signs of trauma noted on the victim at the scene.

Following news of the death, Justin True, a spokesman with the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity, issued a statement saying the USC chapter of the fraternity has been put on administrative suspension and the chapter has ceased operations.

“The Fraternity’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of this young man and the brothers of Xi Chapter,” True said in the statement.

Area residents reported seeing several Columbia and USC police in front of the home as well as crime scene investigators and a coroner’s van Wednesday morning. Just after noon, a body was pulled from the home and loaded into the back of the van.

Watts said the cause and manner of death is being investigated. An autopsy has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday. The individual’s identity will not be released until next-of-kin are notified.

Wes Hickman, a university spokesman, said in a statement the university couldn’t confirm the identity of the student until an autopsy had been completed.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the deceased,” Hickman said. “The university is offering support services to any in our community who need it.”

Salvatore Costa, a recent USC graduate who lives a block from the house, said that as he was walking his dog Wednesday morning he saw several college-age students running out of a car and into the driveway of the home.

About 30 minutes later, he saw an ambulance at the home and technicians speaking with two or three adult males outside. CSI units and three police cars arrived about 10 minutes later.

“There have been anywhere from 10 to 15 cops cars,” Costa said.

Costa said officers pulled about four males from the house at around 11:30 a.m., patted them down and took them away in police cars. They were not in handcuffs, he said.

Even though Costa said numerous parties have been hosted at the residence before, he said was not aware of any disturbances Tuesday night.

“There was no gun shots, no screaming. Nothing like that,” he said.

Staff writer Bertram Rantin contributed. Reach Cahill at (803) 771-8305.