A South Carolina man was charged Saturday with the kidnapping and murder of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson; police say they believe he picked her up in a vehicle, killed her and dumped her body in a wooded area.
Chief William H. Holbrook, with the Columbia Police Department, said at a news conference on Saturday night that authorities had charged 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland with killing Josephson, 21. A traffic stop reportedly found the victim's blood in his car.
“Our hearts are broken, they’re broken. There is nothing tougher than to stand before a family an explain how a loved one was murdered,” Holbrook said.
According to police, Josephson was out early Friday with friends at the Bird Dog bar on Harden Street when members of the group got separated. After not being able to contact her at all the following morning, Josephson’s roommates contacted law enforcement.
Police learned that after leaving the bar, Josephson requested a ride from Uber and was last seen getting into a black Chevy Impala.
While investigators with the Columbia Police Department began a missing-person inquiry, Clarendon County police responded to a call about 3:45 p.m. that a body had been discovered in a field.
“The body had been found by a couple of people hunting … in a field in what was described by the sheriff to us as a wooded area in a very rural part of the county off of a dirt road -- about 40 feet off of a dirt road -- in an area that would be very difficult to get to unless you knew how to get there.”
Police say Rowland resided close to where the body was found.
About 3 a.m. Saturday, a canine officer with the Columbia Police Department detected a black Chevy Impala about two blocks from where the victim was last seen.
Holbrook said the officer initiated a traffic stop and asked the driver -- people have identified him as Rowland -- to step out of the vehicle.
The suspect took off but was taken into custody after a short pursuit.
Upon returning to the vehicle, the officer observed what appeared to be large amounts of blood inside. Police got a search warrant and found similar samples in the trunk and passenger side of the car. Subsequent testing confirmed that the blood belonged to Josephson.
Police also discovered the victim’s cellphone in the vehicle, along with bleach, germicidal wipes and window cleaner. Holbrook said the child safety feature on the rear car doors had been activated, suggesting that Josephson might have been unable to escape.
Said Holbrook: “What we know now is that she had in fact summoned an Uber ride and was waiting for that Uber ride to come, we believe. We don't have a statement or any evidence that suggests this, other than our observations on the video. We believe that she simply mistakenly got into this particular car thinking it was an Uber ride.”
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division charged Rowland on Saturday with murder and kidnapping.
Holbrook concluded his press conference with condolences to Josephson’s family, calling the case simply “gut-wrenching.”