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Slain University of South Carolina student died from multiple sharp force injuries, authorities say

Posted at 6:54 AM, Apr 02, 2019

A college student whose body was found in a field hours after she got into a vehicle she mistakenly thought was her Uber ride died from multiple sharp force injuries, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said Monday.

Samantha Josephson, 21, a student at the University of South Carolina, called an Uber around 2 a.m. Friday in Columbia, and was last seen getting into a black Chevy Impala, said Columbia Police Chief W.H. "Skip" Holbrook. Turkey hunters found her body 14 hours later in the field in Clarendon County, about 90 miles away.

The Law Enforcement Division cited an autopsy report from the Clarendon County coroner. Authorities declined to release additional information.

Josephson's body had numerous wounds, including on her head, neck, face, upper body, leg and foot, according to arrest warrants for suspect Nathaniel David Rowland.

Surveillance video of Josephson outside a bar shows her standing by herself on a curb on the morning she disappeared. She takes several steps toward a black vehicle that pulls up to a parking spot. She appears to reach for the door handle of the vehicle as it slows down and gets inside, the video shows.

Josephson and her roommates had gotten separated the night they went out, Holbrook said. Her roommates grew worried the next morning. They looked for her and called Columbia police around 1:30 p.m. Friday to report her missing, Holbrook said.

Police arrived at the home where Josephson and her roommates lived that day.

Josesphson's friends also went around Columbia with her photo on Friday asking if anyone had seen her.

Iley Wildes, who co-owns Natural Vibrations, a store located next to a bar where Josephson was last seen, recalled Josephson's boyfriend and roommates came in to her store with a photo of Josephson. They also wanted to see the store's surveillance video, Wildes told CNN.

"They seemed very concerned and distraught," she said.

Early Saturday, police arrested Rowland, 24, in Columbia after an officer saw him driving an Impala that matched the description of the vehicle seen in surveillance video. Police found Josephson's blood in the car's passenger side and trunk, authorities said. Her cell phone was found in the passenger compartment, police said.

Investigators also found a container of liquid bleach, germicidal wipes and window cleaner in the car, Holbrook said.

Rowland faces charges of murder and kidnapping in connection with Josephson's death.

He waived his right to a scheduled court appearance on Sunday. Fielding Pringle, his public defender, declined to comment. Rowland was listed as being held in jail in Columbia. Arrest warrants listed his home as New Zion, an unincorporated community in Clarendon County.

Flowers for Samantha

Josephson had worked at the Liberty Tap Room, a nearby brewery and grill, for several months, according to a manager.

Throughout the day, students in University of South Carolina clothing placed flowers in front of a memorial at a fountain in Columbia's Five Points bar district where Josephson was last seen.

Ridessharing guidelines from Columbia police were plastered on businesses in the Five Points area, including the bar where Josephson was before she climbed into the Impala. The guidelines pointed out where the drop off and pick up zone were in the area and offered safety tips and guidelines.

An Uber spokesperson in a statement said: "Since 2017, we've been working with local law enforcement and college campuses across the country to educate the public about how to avoid fake rideshare drivers. Everyone at Uber is devastated to hear about this unspeakable crime, and our hearts are with Samantha Josephson's family and loved ones. We remain focused on raising public awareness about this incredibly important issue."

Josephson, from Robbinsville, New Jersey, located east of Trenton, planned to study law in the fall at Drexel University in Philadelphia, according to her father, Seymour Josephson. He attended at a candle light vigil Sunday on the South Carolina campus.

Josephson's funeral will be held at noon Wednesday at Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, according to a post on her father's Facebook page. She will be buried in Perrineville, New Jersey.

A GoFundMe page to cover funeral and memorial costs had raised more than $63,000 by Monday evening.