Samantha Josephson, missing USC student, found dead; suspect charged
GREENVILLE, S.C. – Authorities have charged a man with murder and kidnapping in the disappearance of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson.
At a press conference Saturday evening, Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said that 25-year-old Nathaniel David Rowland had been charged after a joint investigation by the Clarendon County Sheriff’s Office, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and Columbia police.
According to Holbrook, friends of Josephson filed a missing persons report for her around 1:30 p.m. Friday after the 21-year-old could not be contacted and did not return to The Hub, an apartment complex in Columbia where she lived with friends.
Just before 4 p.m. Friday, Clarendon County sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a body found in a rural area. Turkey hunters found the body in field near a wooded area about 40 feet off a dirt road.
“The spot would be difficult to get to unless you knew how to get there,” Holbrook said.
Around that same time Columbia police publicized Josephson was missing and details of a related vehicle.
Around 3 a.m. Saturday, a Columbia canine officer found a black Chevy Impala two blocks from the Five Points area and made a routine traffic stop. When the officer asked the driver to step out of the vehicle, the driver fled on foot. The officer took the driver into custody after a foot chase and returned to the vehicle, where blood was discovered.
SLED examined the vehicle and found “a lot of blood” in the trunk and passenger compartment of the vehicle. After processing at the state lab, SLED has determined the blood belongs to Josephson. Her cellphone was also found in the vehicle, Holbrook said, as well as liquid bleach and window cleaner.
A child safety seat was located in the backseat of the vehicle and the child locks were activated, Holbrook said.
Holbrook said the investigation has determined Rowland was driving the Chevy Impala and pulled up near the Bird Dog bar at 2:09 a.m. Friday. Based only on surveillance video, police believe Josephson was waiting there for an Uber ride and entered the car mistakenly.
The body was located in area known to Rowland, a place where he recently resided, Holbrook said.
Holbrook said the investigation is ongoing.
University of South Carolina Harris Pastides issued a statement Saturday saying Josephson had been found dead.
“Our prayers are with the family and friends of Samantha Josephson following the devastating news of her death,” Pastides said. “Times like these leave me searching for words of wisdom and comfort. However, I take solace that the Carolina Family is here to embrace those who are hurting.”
Josephson’s father, Seymour Josephson, spoke about his daughter’s death publicly via a Facebook post early Saturday morning.
“It is with tremendous sadness and of a broken heart that I post this!” he wrote. “I will miss and love my baby girl for the rest of life. Samantha is no longer with us but she will not be forgotten. It is extremely hard to write this and post it but I love her with all my heart. I could continue to write about her but it kills me. I sit here and cry while looking at the picture and write this.”
Josephson is from Robbinsville, New Jersey, and was a senior at USC majoring in political science, according to Jordyn Spencer, a friend.
She is the third USC student to die this week. Parker Neff, a USC Salkehatchie baseball player from Travelers Rest, died Friday after collapsing on the field. Another student died by suicide on Monday, according to a report from The State.
“It has been a difficult week for our extended Carolina family,” Pastides said in his statement. “The loss of a student is never easy but this has been a particularly painful few days as we have experienced loss on several of our campuses. As a family, let’s continue to pray for all the families experiencing heartache and grief this week.”
Contributing: Donna Isbell Walker, The Greenville News, Ken Serrano, Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press