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Slain South Carolina college student apparently mistook suspect's car for Uber ride

Suspect arrested in college student's death

Columbia, S.C. — Police arrested a man Saturday in connection with the death of a college student who apparently got into the suspect's car thinking it was her Uber ride. At a news conference, Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said Nathaniel David Rowland, 24, was arrested early Saturday after a police officer noticed him driving a black Chevy Impala It was the same type of car that Samantha Josephson got into as she left a bar shortly after 2 a.m. Friday.

Rowland tried to run, but the officer was able to catch up to him, Holbrook said. When they returned to the car, he said, the officer saw what appeared to be blood in the car.

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Samantha Josephson Columbia Police Dept.

"We believe ... that she simply mistakenly got into this particular car thinking it was an Uber ride," Holbrook said of Josephson, noting that surveillance video captured her getting into the car. "She opened the door and got into it and departed with the suspect driving."

Rowland will be charged with murder and kidnapping, Rowland said. It was unclear if he had an attorney. He decided not to appear at a hearing in jail Sunday. The judge allowed Josephson's mother to speak, The State newspaper reported.

Marci Josephson said her daughter was planning to go to law school after graduating in May and described her as "bubbly, loving, kind and full of life."

"Unlike him, Samantha had love within her heart and purpose in her life," Marci Josephson said.

Holbrook said hunters found Josephson's body late Friday afternoon off a dirt road in rural Clarendon County, which is about 65 miles southeast of Columbia. Josephson had numerous wounds to her head, neck, face, upper body, leg and foot, according to arrest warrants released Sunday by the State Law Enforcement Division. The documents didn't say what was used to attack her.

Josephson's blood was found in the trunk and inside Rowland's car along with her cellphone, bleach, window cleaner and cleaning wipes, Holbrook said.

"This was a bad scene," the police chief said at a news conference late Saturday.

Josephson's father posted on Facebook that his daughter "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," he said.

Earlier, the University of South Carolina confirmed the death of a 21-year-old student. University president Harris Pastides said in a letter Saturday to the university community that "Our prayers are with the family and friends of Samantha Josephson following the devastating news of her death. Times like these leave me searching for words of wisdom and comfort."

A GoFundMe page for Josephson has raised more than $40,000 as of Sunday afternoon.

Safety advocates urged college students to match the vehicle color and model, the license tag number, and the photo of their ride-share drivers before getting in a vehicle and make the driver say their names to them before they introduce themselves.

"She simply, mistakenly, got into the car thinking it was an Uber ride," Holbrook said.

The crime shook Columbia, the state capital where the University of South Carolina is one of the main economic engines.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and his wife, Peggy, asked on a message on Twitter for prayers for Josephson's family.

"Peggy and I are devastated and crushed over the Josephson family losing their beautiful daughter Samantha. She was one of the brightest young stars," McMaster wrote.

Friends and family mourn Samantha Josephon at vigil

Dozens attended a vigil Sunday night at the USC campus to honor Samantha Josephon, CBS affiliate WLTX-TV reports. Several members of her family — including her mother, father and sister — were there as long as some of her college friends.

"We loved Sammy, and this is the hardest thing, but it's important that we all do this together," one of her friends said.

Many speakers couldn't hold back the tears as they spoke, WLTX-TV said. Samantha's boyfriend also attended and said she was a force of good. He said they'd known each other for four years, and were planning a life together, the station added.

"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."

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