USC Student Murdered by Mistaken Uber Driver

Brooke Griffin , Staff Writer

21-year-old student at the University of South Carolina, Samantha Josephson, made the mistake of getting into a car that she thought was her Uber she had requested. Josephson was last seen by her friends leaving the Bird Dog bar in Five Points, Columbia. Video surveillance shows her leaving the bar alone around 2 a.m. on Friday, March 29th. She stood on the curb waiting for her Uber to pick her up. A black Chevy Impala pulled into a handicapped parking spot and she got into the passenger’s back seat and shut the door. Her actual Uber driver cancelled the ride when Josephson did not show up at the pick up spot.

When Josephson wasn’t responding to calls and never made it home, her friends reported her missing on Friday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. Her body was found by two turkey hunters in Clarendon County on the afternoon of March 29th near Black Bottom Road in New Zion, which is 90 miles from where she was picked up. The wooded area where she was found is only known by those who are familiar with the area, according to the hunters. The 24-year-old suspect, Nathaniel David Rowland, used to be a resident in this area. Rowland was charged with kidnapping and murder for Josephson’s death by the State Law Enforcement Division.

On Saturday morning, around 3 a.m., Rowland was stopped by an “alert” K-9 officer just two blocks from the Five Points area. He was in his black Chevy Impala and when he was asked to step out of the vehicle, he fled on foot but was later caught and arrested. According to officials, Rowland had a female passenger when he was stopped by the policeman. Police say they do not believe she was with Rowland at the time of the kidnapping. She is being questioned and has been cooperative with police. Blood was found in Rowland’s car along with Josephson’s cellphone, bleach, wipes and window cleaner, according to Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook.

Holbrook said that the child safety locks in the Chevy Impala were activated, therefore, someone would not be able to open the back doors from the inside. SLED agents wrote that Josephson had “numerous wounds evident on multiple parts of her body to include her head, neck, face, upper body, leg and foot.” An autopsy was released Monday indicating that Josephson died of “multiple sharp force injuries,” according to a news release from the State Law Enforcement Division and Clarendon County Coroner Bucky Mock.

Uber refused to comment on the situation when asked about by CNN. Uber has 10 Rider Safety Tips with descriptions on their website to help inform their customers how to stay safe while using Uber. They are: Plan ahead, request your ride inside, get in the right car, be a backseat rider, buckle up, share your trip details with a friend, protect your personal information, follow your intuition, be kind and respectful, and give feedback on your trip.

It is important to follow safety guidelines when using transportation services such as Uber or Lyft. It’s ideal to travel with someone or in groups. Josephson followed Uber’s 4th safety tip by using the backseat, but it backfired because of the driver’s use of the child safety locks. This is why getting in the right car is so important. It is crucial to make sure the license plate, the driver photo and the driver’s name matches what is listed on the app. A tip that can be used is asking the driver who they are picking up. Asking “Are you picking up ___,” can be dangerous because anyone can say yes to that. If the driver is asked “Who are you picking up,” they have to know the rider’s name from the app. Small safety tips like these can be the deciding factor on whether or not it will be a safe trip.