Jury selection began Monday morning for the murder trial of a South Carolina man accused of killing a college student who accidentally got into his car, thinking it was an Uber.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Columbia Police arrested Nathaniel David Rowland, 24, in March 2019, for the murder of University of South Carolina student, Stephanie Josephson. According to police, Rowland’s car was spotted on security footage in the parking lot of an area in Little Points in Columbia, where Josephson and a group of friends were congregating after a night out at the Bird Dog bar in Columbia.
Security footage showed Josephson getting into a black Chevrolet Impala that pulled up to the Bird Dog bar parking lot at around 2 a.m. Josephson was waiting on an Uber rider, according to police, and probably mistook the Impala driver as the Uber driver.
The bartender at Bird Dog reportedly told police that the real Uber driver canceled the ride after Josephson failed to show up for pick-up.
“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,” Columbia Police Department Chief Skip Holbrook said during a 2019 news conference, according to NBC 10.
The following day, friends became worried after Josephson failed to return calls and texts. They contacted police at around 1:30 p.m. the following, sparking a massive hunt for the college student.
At around 4:30 p.m. the day after Josephson vanished, turkey hunters stumbled across the victim’s body in Clarendon County, around 70 miles from the bar she disappeared from. She was lying around 40 feet off of a dirt road in a secluded, rural area.
Officers later spotted a black Chevy Impala that matched the vehicle seen on security footage. Police pulled the driver over a few blocks from Five Points in Columbia. The driver, identified as Rowland, got out of the car and tried to flee by foot before officers captured him.
Inside the car, officers found blood, bleach, wipes, and Josephson’s cellphone. They noted the car had the child safety locks activated, meaning Josephson wouldn’t have been able to get out.
Rowland was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder. He was also charged with drug possession and failure to stop on police command.
“It was straight out of a horror film, I have no doubt,” State Rep. Seth Rose, D-Richland, said, The State reports
Rowland, who maintains his innocence, has been behind bars since his 2029 arrest.
Shortly after Josephson’s death, Rose successfully pushed for a law that requires rideshare drivers to display their license number on their car, in plain view.
“I hope the trial will reemphasize how dangerous it is, how dangerous it is to get into cars without checking,” S.C. Crime Victims Council executive director Laura Hudson told The State.
“I’m hoping this trial will be a warning — not just to young women, but to young men as well.”
Rowland’s trial is expected to last around for at least a week or more. Check back for updates.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Here is a previous episode on the case.
[Featured Photo: Samantha Josephson/Columbia Police Department]