Prosecutors: A man killed a student who mistook the car for Uber | Your money
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – South Carolina man accused of killing the woman who mistook her car for her Uber ride trapped her in the vehicle hours before her body, stabbed to death , be thrown near his family home, prosecutors argued in court on Tuesday.
Nathaniel Rowland is on trial for the kidnapping and murder of 21-year-old Samantha Josephson. The University of South Carolina student in Robbinsville, New Jersey disappeared from Columbia’s Five Points entertainment district one night in March 2019. It was spring before she was about to go. graduate and go to law school.
During opening pleadings at the Richland County Judicial Center in Colombia, prosecutors previewed evidence and testimony that they said implicated Rowland. This included surveillance camera footage of Josephson entering Rowland’s car as well as a witness who prosecutors said watched Rowland clean the blade he used to stab Josephson on multiple occasions.
Fifth Circuit lawyer Byron Gipson said entertainment district cameras captured Rowland circling the block several times in his black Chevrolet Impala before approaching Josephson, who was waiting alone. Josephson got in the car, and that was the last time she was seen alive, the prosecutor said.
“As she stood there waiting for this Uber, his eyes were firmly on her,” Gipson said.
Once inside, Josephson was trapped because Rowland had activated the childrens locks on the back so the doors could only be opened from the outside, prosecutors said.
Josephson’s death has drawn national attention to safety concerns around ridesharing services and prompted some changes. South Carolina lawmakers have passed a measure that requires drivers to make license plate numbers visible on the front of their vehicles and creates criminal penalties for people posing as taxi drivers.
Rowland, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, has been in Richland County Jail since his arrest a day after Josephson went missing. He faces life imprisonment if convicted of murder.
Gipson said more than 100 stab wounds, cuts and other abrasions were found on Josephson’s body, which was dumped in woods about 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Columbia.
It was clear that Josephson hit back, “kicking, punching and clawing the person who attacked her,” said Alicia Goode, one of Rowland’s public defenders.
Goode noted that investigators had amassed a large amount of evidence in the days following the crime, including Josephson’s body and Rowland’s car.
Yet none of the DNA evidence collected from the victim matches Rowland, Goode said.
“Zero: it’s the amount of DNA on Samantha Josephson’s body that matches Nathaniel’s,” Goode said. “Zero. It’s not on her clothes, not under her torn and torn fingernails, it’s not on her ankles.”
Gipson said investigators tracking Josephson and Rowland’s phones found the two men traveling together in parts of Columbia for about 20 minutes before Josephson’s phone was “mysteriously turned off.”
Rowland’s phone continued to ring all the way to the small community of New Zion, South Carolina – the location of Rowland’s hometown and the woods where Josephson’s body was dumped a short distance from the house. Rowland’s family, the prosecutor said.
Gipson also said there were witnesses who found Rowland’s bloody clothes in a dumpster and saw Rowland cleaning the “peculiar looking knife blade tool” that prosecutors say had been used murder weapon.
Gipson, who did not raise any potential motives for the crime, discussed video evidence showing Rowland trying to use the victim’s debit card and trying to sell his cell phone. Investigators then found Josephson’s blood and cell phone in Rowland’s car, along with bleach, window cleaner and cleaning wipes.
Witnesses began their testimony before jurors Tuesday afternoon.
Liu is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.
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