Murder trial of man accused of posing as Uber driver to kidnap and kill NJ woman begins

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The South Carolina college student who was allegedly kidnapped and killed by a man she thought to be her Uber driver suffered “heinous, cruel and malicious acts,” prosecutors said during opening statements in her murder trial Tuesday.

New Jersey native Samantha Josephson, 21, was killed by Nathaniel Rowland after she mistakenly got into his car after a night of drinking in Columbia in 2019, prosecutors told the jury, according to NBC News.

Jurors will be shown security video, cellphone data and a murder weapon that connects Rowland, 27, to the death of the University of South Carolina senior, prosecutors said, according to the report.

“It’s those intentional deliberate, heinous, cruel and malicious acts that Nathaniel David Rowland has been indicted for kidnapping Samantha Josephson. He’s been indicted for murdering Samantha Josephson,” prosecutor Byron Gipson reportedly told the court.

“And he’s been indicted for possession of a weapon from the commission of a violent crime. And at the appropriate time, we’ll ask that you return verdicts on guilty on each one of those counts.”

Josephson was celebrating the end of her time in college with a number of friends, while her alleged killer waited to attack, Gipson alleged.

“They had their eyes firmly fixed on their futures and their eyes firmly fixed on their love for one another,” Gibson said of Josephson and her friends, according to the network.

“But what they didn’t realize, what they could never realize, is that the defendant, Nathaniel David Rowland, had his eyes firmly fixed on Samantha Josephson. He had his eyes on Ms. Josephson as she walked outside the Bird Dog Lounge in Five Points alone, as she walked outside, as she had ordered an Uber ride, alone.”

Defense lawyers said Rowland was not connected to the killing through DNA evidence after Josephson’s body was found in a wooded area about 65 miles away from the alleged abduction, according to the report.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to hear this number again, and that is zero,” lawyer Tracy Pinnock said. “That’s the amount of DNA on Samantha Josephson’s body that matches Nathaniel Rowland. Zero. It’s not on her clothing. It’s not under her ripped and torn fingernails. It’s not on her ankles.”

Tuesday’s statements come a day after Rowland asked for a new lawyer, claiming Pinnock, a public defender, was “unprepared and disorderly,” according to the Columbia Post and Courier.

“I just feel like she’s not fighting for me as she would fight for her own,” Rowland reportedly told Judge Clifton Newman during a break in jury selection.

The judge refused to pause the proceedings, and later in the day Rowland said he was satisfied with his representation, according to the article.

Rowland faces life in prison without parole if convicted.

The case made national news two years ago, and led Uber to require drivers to prominently display ID and say the names of passengers before they travel.

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