Trial of man accused in UofSC student’s kidnapping, death set to begin

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 5:28 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The trial of the man accused of killing a University of South Carolina student in 2019 could begin as early as Tuesday.

Nathanial Rowland is accused of fatally stabbing 21-year-old Samantha Josephson multiple times in 2019 in a case that made national headlines.

Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial against Rowland.

Columbia Police say Josephson was killed after a night out in the Five Points neighborhood. Investigators say they believe she got into a car she believed was being driven by the Uber driver she hired.

But instead, they say the car was being driven by Rowland, who they say was the owner of the vehicle.

Surveillance video showed Josephson getting into a car at 2 a.m. on March 29, 2019. Her friends called 911 later that day to report that she had not come home.

That afternoon, her body was found by two turkey hunters 70 miles away from Columbia in Clarendon County.

Approximately 12 hours after that discovery, police pulled over a car driven by Rowland that appeared to be the one Josephson had gotten into. During the stop, police say Rowland tried to run away.

Investigators say they found Josephson’s blood and cell phone in Rowland’s car. They say she was unable to get out of the car because the child locks were activated in the rear passenger doors.

In late March of 2019, police charged Rowland with kidnapping and murder.

Josephson’s parents have been on 2-year mission

Josephson’s parents, Marci and Seymour Josephson, say her loss still haunts them.

“I pray he hears her screams when he closes his eyes or has a moment of peace,” Marci Josephson says. “That’s what I hear every day.”

But it has also fueled them.

“I am always talking about her, so that’s a good thing,” Seymour Josephson says. “But I’m also crying every day talking about her.”

The Josephsons have been working to make ride-hailing services like Uber safer for riders. They have pressed the company for more safety features and helped pass statewide legislation requiring license plate numbers to be shown from the front.

They also helped pass a bill pushing for more rider verification systems through the U.S. House of Representatives. Dubbed “Sami’s Law,” it passed the U.S. House last year and now sits in the U.S. Senate.

The Josephsons also started the “What’s My Name” campaign to remind people to ask a rideshare driver for their name before the rider gets into the vehicle.

“It’s happened more times than people realize,” Seymour Josephson says. “We get emails from individuals where this has happened. It’s the attempt.”

But the Josephson’s say they would trade it all to have their “Sami” back.

“I’d rather have Samantha sitting next to me than sitting here talking to you, than Congressmen Smith, Pelosi, McCarthy, Graves, you know,” Seymour Josephson says.

At Rowland’s bond hearing, his family said he did not kill Josephson.

“We stand behind him 100% because we believe he was innocent,” Nathaniel Rowland’s brother, Henry, told a judge.

But to the Josephson family, Rowland is a monster. They successfully urged the judge to deny bail last year, asking the judge to imagine the “potential for danger and so much more evil that would be released into society” if the court set bail for him.

As the trial is set to begin this week, Rowland’s family and friends denied requests for interviews, saying they are waiting to speak publicly again until the jury reaches a verdict.

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