The trial of accused ‘fake Uber’ killer Nathaniel David Rowland began quite chaotically in Columbia, South Carolina on Monday morning, with the 27-year-old defendant throwing a major league curveball to prosecutors and the presiding judge.
On Monday morning, Rowland told S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman that he was unhappy with the three court-appointed attorneys defending him on murder and kidnapping charges – and that he was retaining new counsel to represent him.
The problem? The lawyer Rowland claimed to have hired – Debra Moore – was adamant she was not representing him.
“I do not represent Nathaniel Rowland,” Moore told me on Tuesday morning. “Nor did I ever agree, imply or suggest that I would represent Nathaniel Rowland. My name should have never been dragged into this, but I am looking forward to appearing in court to clear my name.”
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Moore (above) said she agreed to meet with Rowland over the weekend at the behest of his family members – who are claiming to have uncovered what they believe to be “serious issues” with the prosecution’s case against him.
Moore declined to address any of those alleged “issues,” saying only that she believes Rowland’s family members may have misinterpreted her willingness to hear them out as an offer to represent Rowland.
“I am not a party to this case,” Moore told me. “If I was, I would have filed something. The judge and prosecutors would not have found out about that in open court – I would have notified them ahead of time. I have more integrity than to do something like that.”
Moore – a former prosecutor – said she was looking forward to addressing the issue in court and “clearing any confusion” as to her interactions with the Rowland family.
Around the same time Rowland was telling the court he had a new lawyer, his family launched a GoFundMe page entitled “Justice For Nate” in the hopes of raising $15,000 to pay for his legal defense. The page was taken offline, however, after attracting a single $10 anonymous donation during its first 24 hours of operation.
As of this writing, Rowland is still represented by public defender Tracy Pinnock – even though he made it clear to Newman on Monday that he does not believe she is adequately defending him.
“I just feel like she is not fighting for me,” Rowland said in court.
Pinnock is working with fellow public defenders Alicia Goode and Robert Pillinger. Prosecuting Rowland are S.C. fifth circuit solicitor Byron Gipson and three of his deputies, Dan Goldberg, April Sampson and Amanda Gaston.
Rowland is accused of kidnapping and brutally murdering 21-year-old University of South Carolina student Samantha Lee Josephson of Robbinsville Township, New Jersey. According to police and prosecutors, Josephson hopped into a black Chevrolet Impala at around 2:00 a.m. EDT on March 29, 2019 – believing it to be an Uber ride she had called.
Hours later, Josephson’s body was discovered by turkey hunters approximately forty feet off of Black Bottom Road near Rowland’s home town of New Zion, S.C. In fact, Josephson’s body – which had sustained dozens of stab wounds – was found a stone’s throw away from 1313 Renegade Trail, the last listed home address for Rowland.
According to Clarendon county coroner Bucky Mock, Josephson died of “multiple sharp force injuries.” Since then, it has been revealed that Josephson sustained at least three dozen stab wounds “from her feet to her face” – wounds inflicted by some form of “bladed weapon.”
Rowland was arrested by police on March 30, 2019 in connection with Josephson’s murder after a city of Columbia police officer spotted him driving the same black Chevrolet Impala that was seen on surveillance videos. Less than two weeks after the murder, police located the weapon they believed was used in the crime.
Far more graphic and chilling details of the crime were provided to this news outlet in the early stages of the murder investigation, but I have made the editorial decision not to discuss any of these details prior to the trial.
Suffice it to say, they are beyond horrific …
Sources familiar with the case told me over the weekend that Josephson and Rowland knew each other in some capacity prior to the murder. In fact, one of Josephson’s former coworkers relayed this information on social media at the time of the murder. The coworker did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted on Saturday.
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Files obtained by this news outlet showed that agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – which assisted the city of Columbia, S.C. police department in investigating this murder – took steps to locate the coworker so that she could be interviewed. It is not clear from the files whether such an interview ever took place, however.
While Rowland’s family members are adamant that he is innocent of this gruesome crime, the evidence linking him to Josephson’s murder is overwhelming.
Among the specific pieces of evidence likely to be presented in court this week?
- Josephson’s blood and hair was reportedly found in Rowland’s car.
- Rowland was seen on video using Josephson’s debit card and attempting to sell her phone in the hours after her death.
- Josephson’s blood was reportedly found on the clothes that Rowland was seen wearing on the night of her murder.
- The murder weapon was reportedly found at a home Rowland had visited that evening.
- Cleaning products and rubber gloves were reportedly found at his home.
- A child safety lock was reportedly engaged in the black Chevy Impala Rowland was allegedly driving.
- Video footage showed Josephson getting into Rowland’s black Chevy Impala.
- Cell phone evidence tracked Rowland and Josephson’s phones traveling to the same locations following the murder, including the location where the body was found.
- A footprint on the window of the Impala belonging to Josephson.
Family members claim Rowland was not the only person with access to the Impala, and that he is “protecting” someone else by remaining silent about the crime. They have also suggested “someone else” may have been with Rowland at the time of Josephson’s murder – although they have yet to identify any alleged co-conspirators.
Will any of these assertions be offered in court by Rowland’s public defenders? We shall see …
A jury should be duly empaneled to hear Rowland’s case sometime early Tuesday, and opening arguments in the case could begin as soon as Tuesday afternoon, according to reporters Lucas Daprile and John Monk of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass player and a dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including the above-pictured Toronto Blue Jays’ lid).
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