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Fake Uber Murder Trial: A Look At The Evidence Against Rowland Before Jury Deliberates

The motive is still unclear…

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After five days of testimony in the South Carolina Fake Uber murder trial, the prosecution rested its case without clearly stating a possible motive as to why Nathaniel David Rowland would kidnap and kill Samantha Josephson on March 29, 2019.

Samantha Josephson — a University Of South Carolina student — was last seen getting into a vehicle she thought was her Uber ride around 2 a.m March 29, 2019 in the Five Points area of Columbia, S.C. Her body was found later that afternoon by turkey hunters approximately forty feet off of Black Bottom Road in New Zion — which is roughly an hour-and-a-half drive from downtown Columbia, S.C. — less than two miles from her accused killer’s home.

On Monday, after calling dozens of of law enforcement officers, forensic experts and witnesses to the stand, the prosecution rested its case and the defense followed.

Throughout the trial, witnesses for the prosecution provided key details on how and when Samantha died — but never gave a possible reason for why Rowland would commit such a brutal, personal attack.

A pathologist said Samantha was stabbed more than 100 times by a unique, double-bladed weapon that was found at the home of Maria Howard — Rowland’s ex-girlfriend. Howard has not faced any charges in the crime.

Samantha died between 2:30 and 7 a.m. on March 29, 2019, according to an autopsy report obtained by FITSNews. She was not sexually assaulted in the attack.

A SLED agent said she was likely killed in Rowland’s Chevy Impala then dumped in the wooded area of New Zion, South Carolina — where her body was found by turkey hunters around 3:30 p.m. March 29, 2019.

While many of the prosecution’s witnesses connected Rowland to the crime, a few of them added confusion and chaos to the state’s narrative.

The Evidence

Witnesses called by the prosecution presented a pile of evidence stacked up against Rowland, including:

  • Samantha’s blood found on seats, ceiling, doors and many other places in Rowland’s car.
  • Samantha’s DNA found under Rowland’s fingernails.
  • Samantha’s blood found on Rowland’s shoe, sock.
  • Samantha’s cell phone found in Rowland’s car.
  • Video showing Rowland’s car circling the Five Points area then picking Samantha up the night she was murdered.
  • Video showing Rowland attempting to sell Samantha’s phone on the day of her murder.
  • Video showing Rowland trying to use Samantha’s debit card.
  • Samantha’s phone and Rowland’s phone pinged off the Five Points area at the same time, then both Pinged in the Rosewood area (toward Clarendon County) around 2:15 a.m., before Samantha’s phone shut down.
  • Three gloves in Maria Howard’s trashcan had DNA from Josephson and Rowland on them.

However, some evidence presented at trial poked holes in the prosecution’s theory, including:

  • DNA from hair of an unidentified person (not Rowland or Howard) found in Samantha’s right hand.
  • DNA from fingernail scrapings / clippings of Samantha Josephson were NOT Rowland’s (but DNA from two males).
  • DNA from at least 5 individuals on the blue plastic gloves found in Rowland’s car.
  • DNA from at least 5 individuals on the blue glove around clear spray bottle on the floorboard of Rowland’s car.
  • While Josephson’s DNA was found on the murder weapon, a SLED expert couldn’t conclude with certainty that Rowland’s DNA was on the weapon, but said it could have been.
  • DNA from pillowcase inside Howard’s trashcan was from Josephson and an unidentified individual.
  • Several pieces of evidence collected included sets of unidentified DNA.
  • Rowland’s DNA was NOT found on Josephson’s body.
  • While Rowland’s car was shown on video in the area of the kidnapping, Rowland was never shown.

Rowland’s Ex-Girlfriend

Maria Howard — who said she was dating Rowland in March 2019 — was supposed to be a star witness for the prosecution, but her story wound up planting seeds of doubt in the state’s narrative.

Howard plays a key role in the state’s case against Rowland. She testified that she saw dry blood inside Rowland’s car on the morning after the murder and saw him cleaning a weapon that day.

When she took the stand Wednesday, Howard mixed up details multiple times about the night of the murder. She told the state that they were on the couch watching TV that night and that Rowland was on the couch when she went to bed. 

When she was cross-examined by the defense, Howard said they were watching TV in her room upstairs when she fell asleep that night and she last saw him in his bed.

Both of these stories are slightly different from her initial statement to police, according to the investigation file obtained by FITSNews that said Howard told police they were listening to music that night before they got into bed around 1:30 a.m.

Howard testified that Rowland — her boyfriend of just a few weeks at that point — was supposed to take her to work that morning.

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When he pulled in her driveway that morning, Rowland had her work shirt, but it was soaking wet, Howard testified. When she asked about her work hat, he said it was “in the country.”

When she asked him why it was “in the country,” Rowland allegedly said because it had blood on it.

Howard testified that she asked him why it had blood on it, and Rowland allegedly said “mind your business.”

Then, Howard testified that while Rowland was driving her to work, she saw dry blood in his Chevy Impala on the dashboard and on the seats and a sheet over the backseat, with blood underneath it.

She asked if Rowland “hit a dog.”

He allegedly said “mind your business,” she testified.

He then dropped off Howard at work that Friday morning and she gave him the keys to her apartment because she said she could tell that he’s tired, according to her testimony.

Although Rowland promised to pick her up from work, he wasn’t at McDonalds that morning when she got off work.

Howard said Rowland looked “shook” when she got home from work that day and he was still wearing the same clothes.

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She said Rowland was scrubbing his car after she got home from work. She said that she had to run an errand and noticed that his car smelled like chlorine. 

While in the car with him, she said she saw him cleaning a “hunter’s knife,” — which is presumably the murder weapon. 

When the defense asked Howard if she helped clean Rowland’s car, she said no.

“He got the (cleaning supplies) out of my house,” Howard said. “So of course my DNA is gonna be on it.”

On Thursday, a SLED special agent testified that retrieved the following items from inside a trash can outside of Howard’s home:

  • a sheet with suspected blood on it.
  • a napkin with suspected blood on it.
  • a white grocery bag with suspected blood on it
  • a yellow grocery bag with a towel inside with suspected blood on it.
  • a white grocery back with blue vinyl gloves and paper towels with suspected blood.
  • a multi-tool with suspected blood and hair on it (this is the alleged murder weapon).
  • a khaki shirt with suspected blood on it.
  • a duct-tape role with suspected blood on it.
  • a white grocery bag with cleaning supplies inside.
  • dark colored pants.
  • dark colored Nike sweatshirt.
  • two bank receipts.

When SLED agents searched the upstairs of Howard’s home in Columbia, S.C., they found a pillow case on her bed with suspected blood on it. In her closet, SLED agents found a child’s shoe with suspected blood on the sole.

According to a report in the Columbia Police investigation file, Josephson’s phone pinged twice from Howard’s home — once at 11:32 a.m., and again at 7:23 p.m March 29.

Howard testified that she had only been dating Rowland for a few weeks prior to the murder. She described their relationship as casual. She did not say that he was living at her house, but said she had given him a key to the home on the day after the murder.

So … why was all of this evidence found in her home five days after the murder?

Also interesting? Howard couldn’t pick out Rowland in two photo lineups. According to investigative files obtained by this news outlet, Howard identified a black male who was not Rowland as the alleged killer in one of two law enforcement lineups she was shown immediately following the murder.

The jury will hear closing arguments Tuesday before they start deliberating.

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