The Fateful Moment a South Carolina Student Gets into a Car She Thought Was Her Uber, Hours Before She Was Found Dead
Megan Sheets, Lauren Fruen, and Keith Griffith, Daily Mail, March 31, 2019
Samantha Josephson, 21, went missing in Columbia, South Carolina, early on Friday morning after a night out with friends.
She was found dead by turkey hunters later that day after her body was dumped in a rural spot in nearby Claredon County.
Hours later Nathaniel David Rowland, 24, was arrested after being pulled over by officers while he was allegedly driving the same car she had been last seen in.
He had reportedly been stopped by Columbia police at 3am Saturday two blocks from the Five Points area from where Josephson had gone missing. Police say Rowland tried to flee the scene on foot but was apprehended.
Josephson’s blood and her cell phone were then found in the black Chevy Impala, as well as bleach, wet wipes and germicide, according to police.
Investigators said there was a child safety seat in the back of the car and the child safety locks were enabled, meaning she would have not been able to escape.
Security footage appears to show Josephson getting into the black Chevy Impala at around 2am on Friday, when she was leaving after a night out with a group of friends in the Five Points area.
She left the bar Bird Dog alone and was spotted getting into the car that she and her friends believed was an Uber that she had ordered, a witness told the Daily Gamecock student newspaper.
When Josephson’s actual Uber driver arrived moments later, the driver cancelled the ride when she didn’t show up for the pick-up, witnesses said.
Surveillance images released by the Columbia Police Department also show the final image of Josephson before she disappeared. She is seen wearing an orange shirt and black pants, and talking on the phone.
Throughout the day on Friday, Josephson’s friends and family were unable to get in touch with her and an urgent search was launched.
Columbia Police Department Chief Skip Holbrook said in a news conference Saturday: ‘She had, in fact, summoned an Uber ride. She was waiting for that Uber ride to come, we believe. She simply mistakenly got into this car thinking it was an Uber ride.’
‘Our hearts are broken, they’re broken. There is nothing tougher than to stand before a family and explain how a loved one was murdered. It was gut wrenching, words really can’t describe what they’re going through.’
Holbrook did not take questions and did not elaborate on a motive or how Josephson died.
It is understood another woman, who knew Rowland, was in the car with him at the time of his arrest and is said to be cooperating with police, Timmons said.
After a frantic day of searching for the missing University of South Carolina student the school had earlier confirmed she was dead.
She was found 40 feet off a dirt road in a wooded area in Clarendon County.
‘It is with the heaviest of hearts that I write these words this morning. Our prayers are with the family and friends of Samantha Josephson following the devastating news of her death,’ wrote President Harris Pastides in a statement.
Josephson’s father in her hometown of Robinsville, New Jersey also confirmed her passing in a heart-wrenching Facebook post.
‘I will miss and love my baby girl for the rest of life. Samantha is no longer with us but she will not be forgotten,’ wrote Seymour Josephson, a sales manager with a technology company.
‘It is extremely hard to write this and post it but I love her with all my heart. I could continue to write about her but it kills me. I sit here and cry while looking at the picture and write this,’ Josephson continued.
The mayor of Robinsville, a township of 13,000 near Trenton, posted condolences, writing: ‘Our thoughts, prayers, boundless grief and endless support are with Seymour, Marci and Sydney at this unimaginable time.’
Police say the suspect previously lived in the area where Josephson’s body was found.
An Uber spokesman was unable to immediately comment when reached by DailyMail.com.
The company does urge riders to check that the details of the driver and the car match the information in the app, which provides the driver’s name and photo, as well as the make and model of the car and a license plate number.
Drivers are also provided the rider’s name and should be able to specify who they are picking up when asked.
‘In cases when you are helping someone request a ride through Uber who may have had a few drinks or is unfamiliar with the app, help them double check that the driver and vehicle match the details in the app — before they get in the car,’ wrote Wade Stormer, Uber’s law enforcement liaison, in a blog post.
‘Taking the extra step to double check these details is an important safety measure,’ he continued.
A GoFundMe set up to help with funeral costs had raised more than $24,000 Saturday night.