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Woman killed after getting into what she thought was an Uber

FILE - In this March 15, 2017, file photo, a Uber car drives through LaGuardia Airport in New York. (Seth Wenig, Associated Press)

Samantha Josephson thought she was getting into an Uber. A few minutes later, she thought, she’d be home and she’d be safe. But that moment when she got in that car would be the last time anyone would ever see her alive again.

It’s a story out of South Carolina has left many people across the nation feeling vulnerable. We’re told, after a night out, to get a ride to make sure we get home safe.

But for one woman, playing it safe was a fatal mistake. How do we make sure it never happens again?

Samantha Josephson’s last night out

Samantha Josephson

(Photo: Columbia Police Department via AP)

Josephson was only 21-years-old. She’d been out with her friends for a night on the town in the Five Points Neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina on March 29. As the night was beginning to wind down, Josephson, unwilling to risk her life by getting behind the wheel, called an Uber.

A black Chevy Impala rolled up a few moments later. This was her Uber, police believe the man inside told her, and it was going to take her home. All she had to do was get in.

Nathaniel DavidRowland's Car

Missing USC student Samantha Josephson was found dead after last being seen getting into a vehicle Friday morning in Columbia, SC (Photo: Columbia Police Department via AP)

The man behind the wheel, police say, was Nathaniel David Rowland, and he’d never driven for Uber in his life. He’d just seen a pretty young woman standing at the sidewalk, waiting, and he’d decided to try to trick her to get into his car.

“We believe … that she simply mistakenly got into this particular car thinking it was an Uber ride,” Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook has said. “She opened the door and got into it and departed.”

Police believe Rowland used the car’s child safety locks to keep her from escaping.

Less than 24 hours later, according to police reports, Josephson was found dead in the countryside 65 miles away.

Last Photo of Samantha Josephson

The last known picture of Samantha Josephson, taken from surveillance footage before she got into Nathaniel David Rowland’s car. (Photo: Twitter / Samantha Josephson)

Police don’t yet have a motive to explain why they believe Rowland targeted her. So far, nothing has been released to suggest that the two had ever met before. The only hint to his motive has been the odd statement alluding to “mental health.” Otherwise, her murder appears, at this time, to have been a completely random act.

Regardless of the reason, the last glimpse anyone got of Josephson was through a surveillance camera that caught her climbing into the Impala.

She wouldn’t be found until the next morning. Hunters stumbled upon her body, left in what police have described as a “very rural area” south of the city, with multiple wounds.

Nathaniel David Rowland

Nathaniel David Rowland with Chevy Impala

Nathaniel David Rowland poses on top of his black Chevy Impala. (Photo: Nathaniel David Rowland / Facebook)

Josephson’s friends realized something was wrong when they couldn’t find her the next morning. Calls were made to the police, and, soon, officers around the state were on the lookout for Rowland’s black Impala.

By evening, Rowland had taken to Facebook, sending out this message:

When he made that final post, police had not connected him to Josephson’s disappearance. There’s no evidence he would have known police suspected him.

Rowland also lacks a prior history of violence; the only charge on his record in South Carolina before this was for obtaining a signature or property under false pretenses back in October of 2018.

Police ultimately arrested Rowland just 25 hours later, back in the same neighborhood where they believe he picked up Josephson as she awaited her ride. Police say an officer lit up his lights to signal Rowland to pull over, and almost immediately, Rowland rushed out of his car and tried to escape on foot.

Inside of Rowland’s car was some potentially damning evidence: police say they found Josephson’s cell phone, still in the passenger side seat; bleach in the car; and in the trunk, according to the police report, officers found¬†splatters of blood that would later test positive as Josephson’s.

Another woman was in the car, sitting in the same seat where Josephson had been, with her phone right next to her. Currently, however, police do not believe that she was a victim; instead, they say that she was just Rowland’s friend, apparently willingly joining him on a nighttime drive.

Nathaniel David Rowland

(Photo: Columbia Police Department via AP)

At this time, it’s not clear what that woman knew or what was going through her mind, as she’s yet to speak with the press. Friends who have spoken out, however, have said that they were shocked at what police say Rowland did.

Rowland’s family has expressed shock and surprise that he could be implicated in anything like this. A friend, commenting on Facebook, has likewise said that he only knew Rowland as a “good kid,” before adding that, in his mugshot, he “didn’t look right.”

Remembering Samantha Josephson

For the family and friends of Samantha Josephson, however, this been nothing short of heartbreaking. Josephson, they say, was just two months away from graduating from the University of South Carolina, and had already been accepted into Rutgers Law School.

She’d planned on becoming a lawyer, friends say, and doing work for the UN. And, in the mind of her boyfriend of four years, she was going to be his wife.

“She truly was the love of my life,” he said. “I saw such a clear future with her. I thought I had my future so perfectly planned out.”

Experts are recommending that anybody calling Uber or other ride-sharing services check to make sure that the license plate, make, and color of their car matches the description on the app before getting in. They also recommend asking for the driver’s name.

More to the story

KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic talked about this story on the air and just how vulnerable we are when we use ride-sharing apps like Uber.

If you missed their conversation live on the air, you can still catch it on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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