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Life in prison for man in killing of South Carolina student who mistook his car for an Uber

Nathaniel David Rowland was found guilty of the 2019 kidnapping and murder of Samantha Josephson, a University of South Carolina senior.

A jury convicted a man Tuesday of murdering a South Carolina college student who mistook him for her Uber driver during a night out two years ago, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison moments later.

The man, Nathaniel David Rowland, was found guilty of murdering and kidnapping Samantha Josephson, as well as being in possession of a weapon during a violent crime. The jury returned with a unanimous verdict after two hours of deliberations, NBC affiliate WIS of Columbia reported.

State Circuit Judge Clifton Newman sentenced Rowland immediately after his conviction.

"For whoever asked me for leniency, that's not part of my DNA," said Newman, who sentenced Rowland to life in prison.

Rowland, who was allowed to speak during the sentencing proceeding, maintained his innocence.

"But I guess what I know and what I think really doesn't matter," Rowland said. "I just wish the state would have done more finding out who the actual person was instead of detaining me and proving my guilt."

Defendant Nathaniel Rowland speaks with his attorney, Alicia Goode, during his trial in Richland County Court on July 20, 2021, in Columbia, S.C.
Defendant Nathaniel Daniel Rowland speaks with his attorney, Alicia Goode, during his trial in Richland County Court in Columbia, S.C., on July 20.Tracy Glantz / The State via AP

Newman characterized Rowland as being "heartless" and said the case was the "most severe" murder he has seen in court before. He added that all roads of evidence pointed to Rowland and that he was satisfied with the prosecution's presentation.

"There's a thousand trails each that led to you," Newman said. "All of the evidence, each speck of the evidence — not simply beyond a reasonable doubt, but as the highest standard the law requires — all points to your guilt."

Josephson, 21, was out with friends in Columbia in 2019 when she mistakenly entered the wrong car and vanished. Her roommates, who were out with her that night but got separated, filed a missing person's report with Columbia police after they were unable to reach her the next afternoon.

She was found dead by two hunters in a wooded area off a dirt road in Clarendon County, about 65 miles from Columbia, with wounds to her head, her neck, her face, her upper body, a leg and a foot.

Josephson, a native of New Jersey, was months shy of graduating with a degree in political science and planned to continue her education by attending law school.

Prosecutors argued in court last week that Rowland "had his eyes firmly fixed on Samantha Josephson" as she left the Bird Dog Lounge alone to order her Uber ride home.

Fifth Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson told jurors that they would be shown security video, cellphone tracking data, the murder weapon and other incriminating evidence that would lead to a finding of guilty.

"It's those intentional, deliberate, heinous, cruel and malicious acts that Nathaniel David Rowland has been indicted for kidnapping Samantha Josephson," Gipson said.

Josephson's blood and cellphone were found in Rowland's car, a black Chevrolet Impala, officials said. Investigators said they believe that after she mistakenly entered the car, she was unable to escape because Rowland's child-safety locks were activated.

Rowland's defense attorney, Tracy Pinnock, argued that crime-scene investigators didn't find any DNA evidence linking Rowland to the slaying.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to hear this number again, and that is zero," Pinnock said. "That's the amount of DNA on Samantha Josephson's body that matches Nathaniel Rowland. Zero. It's not on her clothing. It's not under her ripped and torn fingernails. It's not on her ankles."