Man on trial accused of murdering woman who mistook him for her Uber driver

A South Carolina man has gone on trial accused of killing a woman who got into his car thinking it was her Uber ride.

Nathaniel Rowland is accused of the kidnap and murder of 21-year-old university student Samantha Josephson in March 2019.

Ms Josephson’s death prompted changes aimed at improving safety for those using businesses such as Uber.

These included a state law requiring drivers to make license plate numbers visible in the front of their vehicles and criminal penalties for those who impersonate ride-hailing drivers.

Ms Josephson, from New Jersey, was due to graduate from the University of South Carolina and go on to law school.

She had been in the Five Points entertainment district in the South Carolina city of Columbia when she got into the back of Rowland’s black Chevrolet Impala.

Prosecutors said he had gone around the block a number of times before pulling up beside Ms Josephson, who had been waiting alone for her ride.

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Once she was inside the vehicle, Rowland turned on the child locks, meaning the doors could only be opened from the outside, effectively trapping Ms Josephson, it is alleged.

Her body was found covered with stab wounds, cuts and other injuries, dumped in woodland about 65 miles from the city.

Prosecutors say they have phone tracking evidence and video footage of Rowland trying to use Ms Josephson’s debit card and sell her mobile phone after her disappearance.

They also told the court that investigators tracked phones belonging to Ms Josephson and Rowland and found them travelling together for about 20 minutes before her phone switched off.

His phone stayed on all the way to New Zion – his home town and the place where Ms Josephson’s body was found.

Rowland, who denies all charges, has been in jail since he was arrested the day after Ms Josephson disappeared.

If he is convicted of her murder he could face life in prison.

During the trial’s second day, the court heard from Maria Howard, who had been dating Rowland at the time of Ms Josephson’s death.

Ms Howard said she had noticed blood inside his car and that she had watched him clean it while wearing surgical gloves.

She also said she saw him clean a “knife-like” tool that prosecutors have said was the murder weapon.

Police officers also told the court that when they searched Rowland’s car, they found a rose gold iPhone – thought to belong to Ms Josephson, cleaning supplies, and blood.

Earlier in the trial, Rowland’s lawyer Alicia Goode told the court that, although there was evidence Ms Josephson tried to fight her killer, none of the DNA gathered from her body matched the accused.

“It’s not on her clothing, not under her ripped and torn fingernails, it’s not on her ankles,” Ms Goode said.

The trial continues.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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