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The ex-girlfriend of the South Carolina man on trial for the 2019 murder of a college student who prosecutors say mistook his car for her Uber, testified this week that she found blood in the back seat of his car the following day. She said she also saw him cleaning a hunting knife after the alleged murder.
Maria Howard testified on the second day of the murder trial of her ex, Nathaniel Rowland, who is facing murder and kidnapping charges for the slaying of the University of South Carolina senior Samantha Josephson. The college senior's body was found about an hour’s drive away from a bar where she'd been celebrating her upcoming graduation on March 29, 2019. She'd been stabbed to death.
Howard testified on Wednesday at a Richland County courtroom that the day after the killing, she saw blood in the back seat and dashboard of the her then-boyfriend's Chevrolet Impala, as well as a sheet draped over the seat, according to a report from the Columbia Post and Courier. Howard also said that her child's shoes had blood stains on them after she rode in Rowland's vehicle. At the time, Howard told the court, she joked with Rowland, asking if had hit a dog.
That day, Howard rode with Rowland in the car to her job at McDonald’s. She told the court that a visor she needed to wear as part of her McDonald’s uniform was missing from the vehicle. When she pressed Rowland about where it was, he told her to mind her business, the paper reported.
After getting a ride from someone else after her shift on the night of Josephson's murder, Howard told the court that Rowland appeared “shook” when she came home. When pressed by the defense, Howard said she didn’t call the police that day because she was scared for her life. She continued to ride with Rowland out of necessity, she testified.
Prosecutor Bryon Gipson told jurors in his opening statement on Tuesday that Rowland stabbed Josephson more than 100 times "throughout her feet, throughout her torso, throughout her face, her neck, her hands" before leaving her body in the Clarendon County woods where it was discovered 14 hours later.
On Wednesday, a State Law Enforcement Division investigator also testified, telling the court about finding blood throughout the car, along with bleach bottles, and a strong chemical smell. He also said he found the child-safety lock engaged in Rowland’s vehicle and Howard’s bloody McDonald’s visor in the trunk.
On Tuesday, Gipson provided new details to the court as he began to present the state’s case against Rowland. Investigators were able to track Josephson’s movements early that morning through a social media tracking app she’d shared with a friend. It showed her moving away from the nightclub district in the opposite direction of her apartment. Rowland’s cell phone showed that the two phones tracked together for a period of time before Josephson’s phone cut off, the prosecutor said.
Rowland’s phone allegedly showed him continuing to travel to a rural area in New Zion, two miles from his childhood home, prosecutors said. Josephson’s body was discovered by turkey hunters, local station WIS reported.
On Wednesday, jurors also viewed footage Rowland running from police during a traffic stop on the day Josephson's body was found.
Richland County public defender Alicia Goode insisted in court that her client is innocent. She urged jurors not to draw any conclusions until they heard both sides of the case.
“There is zero evidence that Nathaniel Rowland is the one who kidnapped and killed Samantha Josephson,” Goode said.
The trial is set to continue this week with continuing testimony from the SLED investigator and the owner of an area cell phone repair store where footage reportedly shows Rowland attempting to sell Josephson's iPhone after the slaying took place.
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