Mother of slain University of South Carolina student says suspected killer created 'a hole in our universe'

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21-year-old Samantha Josephson was found dead in a field about 14 hours after getting into a vehicle she mistakenly thought was her Uber, said police in Columbia, South Carolina. CNN's Jean Casarez reports.

Posted: Apr 1, 2019 8:40 AM
Updated: Apr 1, 2019 8:40 AM

Nathaniel David Rowland, the accused killer of a University of South Carolina student, wasn't in court Sunday, but that didn't stop the victim's mother from ripping into him in a statement to the judge.

"It sickens us to think that his face was the last thing that my baby girl saw on this earth. Does he even know her name?" Marci Josephson said in court, according to CNN affiliate WIS-TV.

Her daughter, Samantha Josephson, 21, was found dead in a field Friday afternoon about 14 hours after getting into a vehicle she mistakenly thought was her Uber, said police in Columbia, South Carolina. After Rowland's arrest, police found Josephson's blood and her cellphone in his vehicle, police said.

"His selfish, unspeakable and violent actions have created a hole in the universe," Marci Josephson said. "A hole in our universe and we see the unimaginable ripple. ..."

She said her daughter worked hard, was due to graduate from USC in May and had planned to go to law school in September. Marci Josephson said she didn't understand how a person could "randomly select a person, a beautiful girl and steal her life away."

"There are no words to describe the immense pain, his actions have caused our family and friends. He's taken away a piece of our heart, soul and life," Josephson said.

Rowland, 24 waived his right to a scheduled court appearance Sunday, according to South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokesperson Kathryn Richardson. Fielding Pringle, the public defender for Rowland, said Sunday she has no statement on behalf of her client at this time.

Despite his absence in court, Josephson's family was present during the proceedings and Marci Josephson read a statement before the judge, according to WIS-TV.

She asked the court to deny Rowland bail or the posting of a bond.

"He should never be given the right to walk free again for what he did to my daughter, or given the opportunity to hurt anyone else," she said.

Richardson says it's not clear when Rowland's next court appearance will be.

'She had absolutely no chance'

A vigil honoring Samantha Josephson was held on USC's campus Sunday night.

Josephson's friends and sorority sisters all spoke about her large personality, compassion and how she brought out the best in people.

"There are so many people here that did not know her and this community has pulled together. It's totally amazing," said Seymour Josephson, the victim's father.

Josephson said his daughter was actually home the weekend before her death visiting Drexel University, where she planned to attend law school.

"We got to spend some time her," he said, adding that he and his wife planned to surprise their daughter the weekend of her death.

Seymour Josephson said part of his life's mission will be to educate people on using rideshare services -- like Uber and Lyft -- safely.

"What we have learned is ... you guys have to travel together at night," he said. "You get into an Uber, you don't know if it's an Uber. If there's two of you, something less likely will happen. Samantha was by herself, she had absolutely no chance."

Josephson added he never wanted to see anyone experience the same anguish as his family.

"I can't tell you how painful this is," he said.

Josephson's funeral will be held at noon Wednesday at Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, according to a post on her father's Facebook page. She will be buried in Perrineville, New Jersey.

A mistaken Uber ride turned deadly, police say

Samantha Josephson called an Uber around 2 a.m. Friday after being separated from her roommates during a night out, said Columbia Police Chief W.H. "Skip" Holbrook during a news conference Saturday.

Josephson hopped into a black Chevy Impala, thinking it was her ride and about 14 hours later turkey hunters found her body in a field in Clarendon County, about 90 miles from Columbia, he said.

"What we know now is that she had, in fact, summoned an Uber ride and was waiting for that Uber ride to come," Holbrook said, citing surveillance footage. "We believe that she simply mistakenly got into this particular car thinking it was an Uber ride."

Josephson's body was found numerous wounds including on her head, neck, face, upper body, leg and foot, according to arrest warrants for Nathaniel Rowland released by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

The SLED warrant also says that blood belonging to Josephson was found in the trunk and passenger compartments of the vehicle Rowland was driving when he was arrested.

Rowland was arrested early Saturday after an officer saw him driving the Impala. He faces charges of murder and kidnapping in connection with Josephson's death, Holbrook said. He is being held in jail in Columbia. Arrest warrants listed his home address as New Zion, an unincorporated community in Clarendon County.

Rowland also faces two misdemeanor charges for failing to stop on police command and for simple possession of marijuana, Columbia Police Department Public Information Officer Jennifer Timmons said.

Police are also questioning a female acquaintance of Rowland's who was in his vehicle at the time of his arrest, Timmons said.

South Carolina governor responds to student's death

Gov. Henry McMaster said on Twitter Saturday that he's "devastated" about Josephson's death.

"She was one of the brightest young stars at @uofsc," his tweet read. "I ask every South Carolinian to join us in praying for the Josephson family. Let us also pray for the men and women of law enforcement as they fight to bring evil to justice.

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