Prosecutors argued in court on Tuesday about a South Carolina man that was accused of killing a woman who mistook her car for an Uber after trapping her in his car. A few hours later, she was stabbed in the body around 100 times and her body was dumped near her home.
Nathaniel Rowland is being investigated for the hijacking and murder of 21-year-old Samantha Josephson. The University of South Carolina understudy from Robbinsville, New Jersey, vanished from Columbia’s Five Points amusement region one night in March 2019. It was the spring before she was set to graduate and make a beeline for graduate school.
During the debate at the Richland County Judicial Center in Columbia, prosecutors had previously reviewed evidence and testimony that they believed would implicate Roland. These included surveillance footage of Josephson entering Roland’s car and an eyewitness. The prosecutor allegedly saw Roland clean the blade he used to repeatedly stabbing Josephson.
Fifth Circuit Prosecutor Byron Gipson said that cameras in the entertainment district caught Roland driving his black Chevrolet Impala around the block several times before approaching Josephson, who was waiting alone. The prosecutor said that Josephson got in the car and this was the last time she was seen alive.
“As she stood there waiting for that Uber, he had his eyes firmly transfixed on her,” Gipson said.
The prosecutor said that once inside, Josephson was trapped, because Roland activated the rear seat child lock, so the car door could only be opened from the outside.
Josephson’s death brought the nation’s attention to the safety of private transportation services and triggered some changes. South Carolina lawmakers enacted a measure that requires drivers to display the license plate number on the front of vehicles and impose criminal penalties on those who pretend to be drivers and request transportation.
Roland pleaded not guilty to these charges, and since Josephson was arrested the day after his disappearance, he has been in the Richland County Jail. If convicted of murder, he could face life imprisonment.
Gibson said that more than 100 stab wounds, cuts, and other abrasions were found on Josephson’s body, which was discarded in a forest about 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Colombia.
It was clear Josephson fought back, “kicking and punching and clawing the person attacking her,” said Alicia Goode, one of Rowland’s public defenders.
Goode pointed out that investigators collected a large amount of evidence within a few days after the incident, including the body of Josephson and stains from Roland’s car. However, Goode said that the DNA evidence collected from the victims was inconsistent with Roland’s.
“Zero: that’s the amount of DNA on Samantha Josephson’s body that matches Nathaniel’s,” Goode said. “Zero. It’s not on her clothing, not under her ripped and torn fingernails, it’s not on her ankles.”
Gibson said that investigators who tracked Josephson and Roland’s phones discovered that the two traveled together in parts of Colombia for about 20 minutes before Josephson’s phones “mysteriously powered off.”
The prosecutor pointed out that Roland’s phone continued to ring in the small community in New Zion, South Carolina, Roland’s hometown, and the forest where Josephson’s body was dumped, not far from Roland’s home.
Gibson also said that an eyewitness found Roland’s blood-stained clothes in the trash can and saw Roland cleaning what the prosecutor said was a “peculiar looking knife blade tool” used as a murder weapon.
Gibson did not explain the possible motive of the crime. He discussed video evidence that showed Roland tried to use the victim’s debit card and tried to sell her mobile phone. Investigators later found Josephson’s blood and cell phone in Roland’s car, as well as the bleach, glass cleaner, and cleaning wipes. On Tuesday afternoon, witnesses began to testify in front of jurors.