COLUMBIA, S.C. — A woman who said she was in a relationship with the man accused of killing University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson said she saw blood in his car and saw him cleaning a small knife hours after the slaying.
Day three of the trial of Nathaniel Rowland completed Wednesday, as prosecutors continued to lay out their case against the suspect. Rowland is charged with the murder and kidnapping of Josephson, a senior from New Jersey majoring in political science at the college. Police have said she was out with friends on March 29, 2019 in Columbia's Five Points district when she mistakenly got into a car she thought was her Uber ride.
Her body was found about 14 hours later in a remote, wooded area of Clarendon County, some 70 miles away from Five Points.
Here's a summary of what was said during the Wednesday's testimony.
Woman says she saw blood in Rowland's car, him cleaning knife
A woman who said she had been dating Rowland testified that she saw blood in his car and on a weapon that he had hours after Josephson's killing.
Maria Howard told the court she and Rowland had known each other for years before the killing, and in March of 2019, he had been staying overnight at her home regularly.
On March 28, she said she asked him to wash her shirt she needed for work at McDonald's. She said she also left her work visor in the back window of his car.
She said that night he was at her home when she went to bed. But she said when she went downstairs early the next morning, he was gone.
She said after getting no response to her text messages because he was supposed to give her a ride to work, he pulled up. She said he was still wearing the clothes he had on from the night before.
She said she noticed her visor was no longer in the back window, she said asked him where it was, and he replied that he'd been the country, and that it he no longer had it because "it had blood on it."
When she asked why it would have blood on it, she said he told her "mind your business."
After leaving for 10 minutes because he said he had to take his nephew to school, he came back with her work shirt, which was wet.
She said when she got in his car, there was dried blood on the dashboard and beside the seats. In the back, she said there was some blood and a sheet covering most of the seat.
Later that day, he didn't pick her up from work, so she got a ride home from a co-worker. She she got home, he agreed to take her to pick up her young daughter. Once again, she said he was still wearing the same clothes.
She said he was cleaning the car with some kind of chemical that smelled like bleach, and was using cleaning wipes.
The cleaning continued as she drove his car, while was in the passenger seat. She said he also cleaned a small hunter's knife. She said he also said he didn't want her daughter in the car because she said he told her "it had blood on it."
They eventually went back home, and Rowland left, she said, but came back later. She said he had a rose gold iPhone that was in perfect condition.
"I asked him where he got it because it looked like a female phone," she remembered. She said he told her he was getting it ready for her, but she said she didn't need a phone at the time.
Later when she saw a news report of Josephson's disappearance and the car that police were looking for, she said "It all made sense to me now.
She said she didn't go to police. "I was scared," she said.
Eventually, after Rowland's arrest, police came to talk to her to get her story.
Crime scene investigator said 'a significant bloodletting' happened in Rowland's car
The trial continued Wednesday afternoon with the last witness of the day, Lt. Todd Schenk with the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED). A special investigator with SLED’s Crime Scene Investigation Department for 7 and a half years, Schenk described his training and qualifications before outlining the work his department does and how they go about it.
Schenk and his partner were assigned to process the crime scene where Josephson’s body was found in Clarendon County, as well as the scene of Rowland’s arrest in Columbia’s Five Points and the car Rowland was found in.
After receiving consent to search, Schenk said they arrived on site in Clarendon County at 6:03 p.m. on Friday, March 29, 2019. They found an aluminum beer bottle and two cigarette butts close to the crime scene, which they processed as possible evidence. Schenk said Josephson’s body was found laying on her back in a wooded area with what appeared to be multiple stab wounds. Schenk said her shirt was up and her platform sandals were broken but still attached to her ankle by the straps. Investigators observed stab wounds over much of Josephson’s body, including her feet, and her fingernail appeared to be broken. An earring appeared to be missing from Josephson’s left ear but never recovered. Schenk also said an alternate light source revealed bruising over much of her body. Based on blood striations on her body and the lack of any trail of blood or evidence, Schenk said it appeared that was not the original crime scene and Josephson’s body had been moved to the location.
Just hours after clearing the crime scene in Clarendon County sometime after midnight, Schenk said they were called back out around 3 a.m. to process the scene at 600 Saluda Avenue, where Rowland had been stopped by police and detained. Items removed form the car prior to their arrival included 2 cell phones, a USB thumb drive, keys with a pink device attached, keys with a lanyard attached, a clear plastic bag, an edible and two do-rags. Schenk said they photographed the car as they found it, including things that were clearly visible through open doors and the open trunk. Some of those things documented included a yellow light indicating child door and window locks were engaged, various areas of suspected blood in and around the car and a child seat in the back seat. In the open trunk, Schenk said they saw a black McDonald’s visor with suspected blood on it and a white Yankee Candle back with suspected blood on it. After the car was photographed in detail, it was towed to a Columbia Police Department facility on Bluff Road for more detailed processing.
At the facility on Bluff Road, Schenk said they searched and documented the car as thoroughly as possible. A large amount of suspected blood was found throughout the car, and suspected footprints were documented inside rear a rear window, according to Schenk. On rear passenger side floorboard, investigators found a bleach container with blood on the bottom. Clothing items found included a black leather jacket, a white jacket, a white shirt and a white and blue jacket – all showing suspected blood. In the driver side door pocket, investigators found a social security card, a Wendy’s receipt and an envelope with suspected blood on it and a list on the back. In the trunk, investigators found a cleaning container with blood on it, along with the black McDonald’s visor and the white bag with suspected blood on it.
Schenk said there appeared to be a significant blood letting throughout the car.
Investigators returned to the Bluff Road facility on April 2, where they pulled out the back seat to search for and document suspected blood. At that time, Schenk said they also cut a piece of the back seat to reveal suspected blood saturated the seat and was absorbed into the seat cushion.
On April 29, Schenk returned to the Bluff Road facility with SLED Trace Evidence expert agent Michael Moskal to search for microscopic and chemical evidence such as bleach.
Following the prosecution’s direct examination of Schenk, court adjourned for the day at 6:15 p.m. Court is scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Hunter Who Discovered Samantha's Body Testifies
The prosecution's first witnesses of the day were called to set the scene for the jury as to how and where the body of Samantha Josephson was discovered.
Anders Sullivan Lee, 25, one of the turkey hunters who found Samantha Josephson's body in a wooded area of Clarendon County testified that he was startled by what he saw.
Lee said he and a childhood friend, Ryan Knowlton, were hunting on Knowlton's family land near New Zion -- about 30 minutes away from Sumter. He describes the area where Josephson’s body was found – down a firebreak road off a dirt access road. Lee was scouting a field for turkeys and on the way back, something caught his eye “off to the left, I stopped and kept looking and the more I looked the more it looked like a body so I called Ryan. We didn’t expect to see anything like that. Took a couple of more steps into the trees. Not very thick woods. The area is in the middle of nowhere – just farmland and woods -- no reason you’d just end up there."
Lee testified he and Knowlton then called Henley "Bubba" Morris, a DNR game warden that lives nearby, to the scene to report the body.
Lee also testified that he knew of Nathaniel Rowland, the defendant, from attending East Clarendon High School, but that Rowland was a couple of years ahead of him.
Taking the stand next was South Carolina Department of Natural Resources officer Morris.
Morris has worked for SC Department of Natural Resources for 26 years and lives in New Zion. Upon arriving at the scene and observing the body, Morris notified the Clarendon County Sheriff's Department because the body was found on private land.
The Clarendon County Sheriff's Officer arriving on the scene reported back to the department and notified the Sheriff's Department to involve South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) in processing the scene.
The officer was able to identify the body as Josephson's from a be-on-the-lookout (bolo) as a missing person from Columbia. The officer reached out to Columbia Police Department for verification of identification.
Body/Dash Cam of Nathaniel Rowland Arrest Played in Court
Columbia Police Department (CPD) Officer Jeffrey Kraft took the stand next. Kraft, who has worked for CPD for 8 years, was the officer who arrested Nathaniel Rowland in Five Points the evening Josephson’s body was found. Kraft’s patrol area was the Rosewood and Five Points areas. He was searching for evidence in the Josephson case, looking for a late model, dark-colored Chevy Impala and/or Josephson.
Dashcam and bodycam footage showed the events of the evening as Kraft first approached Rowland during a traffic stop in Five Points.
On the dashcam video, around 2 am on Harden approaching Blossom heading to Five Points, Kraft encountered an Impala fitting the description of the car wanted in the case. Kraft initiated his blue lights after the Impala turned left on to Blossom and again a left going the wrong way on to the one-way Saluda Avenue.
The video shows Kraft and another officer approach the vehicle and make contact with the driver. “At first the driver was cooperative,” Kraft said.
Kraft said that upon approaching the vehicle, there was a smell of marijuana and asked for a driver’s license and ID. The driver said he had no license on him and admitted to smoking marijuana and was asked to step out of the vehicle. As Kraft told the driver the vehicle matched the description of one of interest, and then the driver is seen taking off in a run into the neighborhood, away from Five Points.
Officers gave chase on foot until they lost the suspect near Waccamaw Avenue and Blossom Street.
The driver was apprehended on Congaree Avenue. After search for marijuana in the car uncovered a rose gold cell phone and a set of keys on a pink key chain under the front seats, blood and a backpack on the rear seats and other evidence in the trunk (cleaning supplies and bleach), Kraft determined needed a higher level of crime scene processing.
A female passenger in the front seat of the Impala during the traffic stop and subsequent chase was temporarily detained.
Following Officer Kraft, Columbia Police Officer Justin Niscia took the stand. Body cam footage of the officer showed his part in the apprehension of Rowland. Niscia was the officer who arrested Rowland after Rowland ran from the traffic stop on March 29, 2019. Rowland was handcuffed, frisked, asked if he was OK. EMS was called because Rowland said he was not feeling well, not able to breathe properly. Rowland was mirandized and seated on the sidewalk until EMS arrived.
EMS evaluated the suspect and determined Rowland was OK and released back into the custody of CPD. Niscia recovered a cell phone and cap from Rowland and delivered the suspect to the investigations department at CPD.
Next up was Columbia Police Officer James Nunez -- a patrolman assigned to Third District and who was on patrol on March 29. Nunez was a responding officer to Kraft’s traffic stop. Nunez was about a half-mile away from the stop and heard there was a foot chase and went to assist on Saluda Avenue.
Officer Kraft signaled Nunez to assist with apprehension of Rowland. As Nunez exited his patrol vehicle, his bodycam activated. Footage from Nunez’ bodycam shows the officer mirandizing Rowland and Officer Niscia assisting Rowland in sitting up straight so that he might breathe properly.
Nunez meets the arriving EMS responders and asks them to check Rowland to make sure he is healthy and informs EMS that Rowland was recently involved in a foot chase. After the medical evaluation, EMS clears Rowland and releases him back into CPD custody. Rowland is placed in the back of Nunez’ patrol car.
Before breaking for lunch, other witnesses included former Alvin S Glenn intake officer Travis Parnell Myers, who booked Rowland into the Richland County jail; SLED agent Brian Hudak, a certified expert in Digital Forensics who was tasked to try to retrieve data from the Impala's human response/entertainment interface module; and CPD Investigator James Fisher, who works in the Special Victims Unit and was tasked first with obtaining video from a Wendy's on Garners Ferry Road that helped track Rowland's movements on March 29, 2019
WATCH LIVE: Day 3 of Samantha Josephson Case
Recap of First Day's Testimony in Josephson Case
After a day and a half of jury selection, jurors heard from the prosecution and defense for the first time Tuesday.
In their opening statements, the prosecution accused Rowland of circling Columbia's Five Points, before picking up Josephson and killing her on March 29, 2019.
"He had his eyes firmly fixed on her," Fifth Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson told the jury.
Gipson says they'll prove Rowland's connection to the murder weapon, location of death, and more.
During Gipson's remarks, Seymour Josephson, Samantha's father, became emotional. Several members of the family are attending the trial, as is the family of the suspect.
Gipson said after Josephson got in the car, she couldn't get out because the child safety seat locks were engaged. Gipson said Josephson "fought for her life" however, kicking and punching and clawing. The prosecutor said the college student was wounded 100 times with a knife bladed tool.
Gipson claimed evidence proves the victim and suspect's phones tracked together, but suddenly stopped not far from Five Points. Rowland's phone, Gipson said, continued through Columbia, through Sumter, and finally to a remote area in the New Zion in Clarendon County.
Gipson said that area is the childhood home on Rowland, and he grew up two miles from the wooded area where Josephson's body was found.
The defense, however, said that while Josephson's death was a tragedy, Rowland was not the one responsible for it.
"It's not his fault, and he is not to blame for the death of Samantha Josephson," said Alicia Goode, one of his attorneys.
She said despite the struggle Josephson put up, there is none of Rowland's DNA on her body, including under her fingernails, which Goode say were damaged. She said photographs of Rowlands taken the day after the killing by state agents showed no scratches on his head, face, arms, or hands.
She said there is no DNA evidence of his involvement, but there is evidence of others.
The jury also heard from Greg Corbishley, Samantha Jospehson's boyfriend. He said he spoke to her minutes before she was kidnapped. After her friends realized she was gone, they attempted to use the "Find My Friend" app to locate her. He said the tracking of her stopped in the Rosewood neighborhood, just blocks from Five Points.
He said the two were very close, and recalled the moment when her parents told him that she was gone. "I just broke down felt my legs collapse from under me and you almost black out," he said.
Jury for Nathaniel Rowland is Set
The jury, which includes the 12 who will hear the trial and 4 alternates, is made up of 10 women and 6 men. It includes a variety of ages and races.
More than 750 jurors were screened as part of the process.
Because the case received so much attention locally and nationally, many jurors were asked if they've heard about the case and whether they've already made up their mind. Those who said they had reached a conclusion were excused.
Others said they couldn't stay due to concerns about being in a closed, indoor space as the area continues to deal with the spread of COVID-19.
Background: the Basics of the Samantha Josephson case
Josephson was a political science major from New Jersey who was planning to enter law school in the fall of 2019.
On the night of the killing, Columbia Police investigators say Josephson went out with friends in the city's Five Points entertainment district but got separated from her group. Around 2:00 a.m. on March 29, she used her phone to call an Uber ride, and investigators say she mistakenly got into a vehicle that she believed was the vehicle that she contacted.
Instead, police say it was a vehicle driven by Rowland, who did not work for Uber or another rideshare company. Police haven't said much about the moments following her getting into the car, but investigators say at some point after the car left the Five Points area, Rowland stabbed Josephson multiple times, killing her.
Police have claimed he then drove to a remote area of Clarendon County, South Carolina--an area 70 miles from the crime scene--where he left her body in a wooded area.
Around 1:30 p.m., less than 12 hours after she went missing and after hours of searching on their own, her friends reported her missing to police. About two hours later, two turkey hunters found Josephson's body off that dirt road in Clarendon County.
At 3:30 a.m. the next morning, an officer spotted saw a vehicle in Five Points that matched what was seen on surveillance video. Police said when they tried to pull the car over, Rowland ran, but was taken into custody after a short foot chase.
Josephson case led to changes
Soon after her death, Samantha's father and mother called for changes with rideshare services to make it clearer to riders if their driver was legitimate. Both have since become advocates on this topic, forming the organization "What's My Name" to educate people on rideshare safety.
Both Uber and Lyft made some changes in the wake of her death, including installing a feature that lets users call 911 from their app. The U.S. House passed a bill called "Sami's Law" requiring ride-sharing firms like Uber and Lyft to match drivers and passengers. And the South Carolina legislature passed a similar bill that also required rideshare drivers to display their license plate number on the front of their car.