South Carolina man convicted of killing Uber rider in 2019

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Nathaniel Rowland, of South Carolina, has been convicted of the 2019 abduction and murder of a 21-year-old college student who mistook his car for an Uber ride.

The victim, Samantha Josephson, was a University of South Carolina student originally from Robbinsville, New Jersey. Her mother, Marci Josephson, spoke at Rowland’s trial.

“Her dreams were my dreams, and her death was my death. I close my eyes, and I feel what she endured at his hands,” Marci Josephson said.

Samantha Josephson got into Rowland’s car thinking it was an Uber ride that would take her back to her apartment, prosecutors said. Instead, she found herself trapped because Rowland had the childproof locks on, investigators said.

She was never again seen alive. Covered in roughly 120 stab wounds, her body was later found in remote woods about 65 miles from her pickup location. The death cast a national spotlight on ride-hailing safety and led to some changes, including more prominent displays of driver’s license plates.

The prosecution spent about a week presenting voluminous evidence and called almost three dozen witnesses. Experts testified that Josephson’s blood was found on the interior of Rowland’s Chevrolet Impala as well as the suspected murder weapon. 

Other evidence included cellphone tracking data pinpointing Rowland’s location the night of the crime. One forensic scientist testified that DNA collected from Rowland’s fingernails matched the victim’s genetic material, and DNA belonging to both suspect and victim were found on gloves also located in the trash.

The defense called no witnesses, and Rowland did not testify. Rowland’s defense attorneys pointed out that scientists weren’t absolutely certain Rowland’s DNA was on the knife. His attorneys also argued that although Josephson appeared to fight her attacker, none of Rowland’s DNA was found on her body and he had no visible marks of such a fight after his arrest. 

The jury took a little more than an hour to find Nathaniel Rowland guilty of the charges.

Before the defense rested, Rowland’s lawyer asked that the charges be thrown out because prosecutors had a circumstantial case – never showing that Rowland actually killed Josephson nor that he was driving the vehicle when she disappeared.

Circuit Judge Clifton Newman rejected the request, saying there was an avalanche of both direct and circumstantial evidence that a jury should consider.

Rowland faces up to life in prison without parole at sentencing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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