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A jury found a Michigan man guilty on Tuesday of murdering a student in 2019 after she mistakenly got into his car thinking it was an Uber she'd ordered.
Nathaniel Rowland, 27, was arrested one day after University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson, 21, was last seen leaving a bar in Columbia on March 29, 2019, according to the Associated Press. The child locks were on in the vehicle, preventing Josephson from escaping, police said.
Surveillance footage captured Josephson entering Rowland’s car in the city's Five Points district, an area known for its nightlife and entertainment. Investigators said they believe Josephson mistook Rowland’s black Impala for an Uber.
Turkey hunters discovered Samantha’s body in the woods about 70 miles from where she entered Rowland’s car, according to WBNS News, in the region where Rowland had been raised.
Josephson lost so much blood that experts had a difficult time collecting a sample from her body, according to expert testimony at the trial.
It took the jury only one hour of deliberation to find Rowland guilty on Tuesday.
Judge Clifton Newman invited the jury to stay in the courtroom as he immediately moved to the sentencing phase following Tuesday's quick verdict.
“Words cannot express the anguish our family and friends have endured since he kidnapped and brutally murdered Samantha,” her mother, Marci Josephson, said as part of her victim impact statement. “From the day I found out I was having Sammy, I was in love with her.”
On Monday, jurors heard from pathologist Dr. Thomas Beaver, who testified that Josephson had been stabbed 120 times, WIS-TV reported. Beaver noted that stab wounds Josephson were severe enough to cause brain damage.
“I close my eyes, and I feel what she endured at his hands,” Marci continued. “120 times, over and over and over, fighting for her life, locked in his car.”
Marci asked the judge for the strictest possible sentence.
Over the course of the six-day trial, the court heard the testimonies of many witnesses, including a former girlfriend who said she saw blood in the back of Rowland’s car, as previously reported. Rowland’s ex-girlfriend also claimed there was blood on her son’s shoes after riding in his vehicle.
Forensics provided “an avalanche of evidence,” according to the judge, with the victim’s also blood found on Rowland’s clothes.
“The evidence in this case was overwhelming,” said Newman. “Law enforcement, in this case, did the best job of investigating a case that I have seen over the past 30 or 40 years.”
The judge said there were a thousand roads that led back to the defendant’s guilt. He allowed Rowland to speak before sentencing.
“Your Honor, I know I’m innocent,” Rowland said. “But I guess what I know and what I think really doesn’t matter.”
Rowland said he’s wished the state focused more on whom the real killer was instead of focusing on him.
“I have dealt with the heartless, and you fall into that category,” Newman told Rowland. “A person without any remorse whatsoever. A person who is totally emotionless. In the law, what we call a depraved heart.”
Newman then handed Rowland a sentence of life in prison.
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