Samantha Josephson was a 21-year-old senior at the University of South Carolina from New Jersey. She was majoring in political science who planned on becoming a lawyer and practicing international law after graduation. She had already earned a full scholarship to Drexel University School of Law and a partial scholarship to Rutgers Law School.
Just three weeks before completing her degree, on March 28, 2019 Samantha spent the night out with friends and called an Uber at 2am on March 29. She mistook Nathaniel Rowland’s car for her Uber and entered the vehicle. Rowland was a stranger to her but used the misunderstanding to prey on Samantha. Rowland used his car’s childproof lock system to trap her in his car.
The next day, Samantha’s friends noticed she was missing and reported it to police. Surveillance footage shows Samantha waiting for her Uber and then getting into a car. A BOLO, or “be on the lookout”, was issued by police for a black Chevy Impala. Nathaniel Rowland was pulled over at 4am on March 30. The stop was captured on both the officer’s dash camera and body camera. Rowland got out of the vehicle and fled the scene. He was caught and arrested a few blocks away.
The footage also shows the officer searching Rowland’s car and discovering Samantha Josephson’s cell phone. When the officer opened up Rowland’s trunk, he decided to call for backup before investigating more as there was so much blood.
14 hours after Samantha got into the wrong car, her body was found in a field 65 miles away by turkey hunters. The remote area was near where Nathaniel Rowland used to live. Samantha had been stabbed 120 times. The attack on her was so vicious, forensic pathologist Dr. Thomas Beaver testified that he struggled to find enough blood to create a blood sample, saying she had just over a tablespoon of blood left in her body. When Rowland was arrested, he was not injured at all.
Rowland’s former girlfriend also testified he had placed a white sheet over his passenger seat (where the blood was found) the day after the murder and that she saw him cleaning blood off of his vehicle and multi-tool (believed to be the murder weapon) with bleach.
On July 27, 2021, Nathaniel Rowland was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering Samantha Josephson. He had no history of violence. Rowland’s family says “he doesn’t have a violent bone in his body”. For some reason his defense lawyer also argued that he was “a good basketball player”, following the trope that a man’s promising future is more important than the future of the women that man has victimized.
After being convicted, Rowland, who did not take the stand to defend himself, stated “I know I’m innocent but I guess what I know and what I think really doesn’t matter. I just wish the state would have done more in finding out who the actual person was instead of being satisfied with detaining me and proving my guilt.”
The judge, reminding Rowland of the “avalanche of evidence” against him, was not having it. He said he was “completely” satisfied with the case against Rowland and described him as an emotionless killer with a depraved heart. The judge also clarifies that while it must be hard for Rowland’s parents to accept what their son has done, he is confident that if they thought about it they could identify signs that Nathaniel Rowland was capable of such violence and perhaps in another universe an intervention could have saved Samantha’s life.
Samantha’s parents were also given the opportunity to read a statement. They urged the judge to keep Rowland away from the public for good, saying “He is evil, he is a monster…I pray that he feels Samantha’s pain.”
Nathaniel Rowland was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After Samantha’s death, her family was instrumental in getting “Sami’s Law” passed in New Jersey, her home state. The law requires that rideshare vehicles be clearly marked with at least two signs and a scannable QR code. The Samantha L. Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act was also created and passed in South Carolina to make rideshare drivers have visible license numbers on the front of their cars. It also criminalizes the act of pretending to be a rideshare driver. Sami’s law is still trying to be passed on a federal level. Her family also started the What’s My Name Foundation, a non-profit that awards scholarships and raises awareness about rideshare safety. They produced PSAs with celebs like Darius Rucker and Bob Saget with basic tips to keep people safe when using rideshare apps.
Two months after her death, Samantha Josephson was posthumously awarded her political science degree by the University of South Carolina.