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Police investigators go back to Allen Benedict Court in Columbia

Two men were found dead at the public housing units, leading to a massive evacuation.

Columbia Police crime scene investigators responded to the Allen Benedict Court Apartments Thursday, the public housing units where two men died earlier this year.

A crime scene investigation truck and multiple officers were seen outside the J Building on the property. Columbia police told News19 they were there as part of an ongoing investigation, but did not comment further. 

The Columbia Housing Authority also said they have no comment at this time and they anticipate releasing a public statement at the appropriate time.

Investigators could be seen coming in and out of unit-J carrying out some type of items. 

The agency has had an open probe into Allen Benedict following the events of January 17 of this year, when two men--61-year-old Calvin Witherspoon Jr. and 30-year-old Derrick Caldwell Roper--were found dead inside that J building. The men died of carbon monoxide poisoning. It's still unclear what--if anything--police have uncovered during their investigation, or when it will be complete. 

After the men died, multiple leaks were found throughout the property, leading to the full evacuation of the property, forcing 411 people out of their homes. The Columbia Fire Department described conditions there as "severe and lethal," and found other violations, including missing smoke detectors and exposed wires. 

All the residents were either relocated to other public housing or given vouchers to find homes or apartments that would accept public housing residents.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed in connection with the deaths and conditions at Allen Benedict, including by the families of the men who died. 

Since the deaths, there has been a nearly complete overhaul of the board of the Columbia Housing Authority, which oversees Allen Benedict, and the former executive director retired at the end of June. 

In June, HUD made $5 million in federal money available for purchasing carbon monoxide detectors for all public housing units. In April the agency sent a notice to all housing authorities and subsidized housing telling them the detectors are now mandatory. 

US Senator Tim Scott spear headed the movement back in late March when he sent a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson asking that HUD require inspections for CO detectors. 

The Director of Administration at the Columbia Housing Authority said they have since put detectors inside all the properties they own, except Allen Benedict Court and that is set to be demolished. 


In our investigation, we've uncovered previous maintenance problems in the units at Allen Benedict Court, that showed there were concerns about the units well before January 17th. We have a mountain of documents related to the case, as well as interviews with residents, and we continue to present new information each day.

You can see more into our probe below: 

RELATED: Four years of Allen Benedict Court inspection reports released

RELATED: DEEP DIVE: Work orders highlight potentially life-threatening problems at Allen Benedict Court

RELATED: Deep Dive: Work orders for deceased resident's apartment

RELATED: History of issues at Allen Benedict Court Apartments

RELATED: Allen Benedict Court records show possible lack in maintenance

RELATED: Incident report reveals possible source of CO in Allen Benedict Court deaths

RELATED: 'Maybe they care, maybe they don't' Columbia Housing resident speaks out about maintenance issues

RELATED: EMS radio recordings describe moments after man was found in his apartment at Allen Benedict Court

RELATED: Fire Department: At least 7 calls for 'suspicious odors' in 2018 at Allen Benedict Court

RELATED: Allen Benedict Court work orders show history of maintenance issues at deceased resident's apartment

RELATED: 'It takes a toll': Allen Benedict mother, daughter adapting to new normal

RELATED: 'I was in the belly of Hell': ex-Allen Benedict Court resident describes living there

RELATED: Previous work orders show gas leak issues at Allen Benedict Court


There have also been multiple lawsuits filed in connection to the case. You can see our coverage of those below.

RELATED: First lawsuit filed against Columbia Housing Authority director, commission chair

RELATED: Lawsuit alleges Allen Benedict Court Resident suffered from 'gas poisoning' well before evacuations

RELATED: Two new lawsuits filed over death, injury at Allen Benedict Court apartments

RELATED: 'Grossly negligent': 1st lawsuit filed over conditions at Allen Benedict Court Apartments