Nathaniel Rowland was sentenced to life in prison without parole Tuesday for the murder of Sami Josephson, a University of South Carolina student who mistook Rowland’s car for her Uber. A one-hour deliberation was all it took for a jury to find him guilty of his crimes. State Judge Clifton Newman sentenced 27-year-old Rowland an hour later.
Since her death, Sami Josephson’s family has formed a movement to help prevent other rideshare users from succumbing to the same fate. The #WhatsMyName Foundation was established in Josephson’s honor, which has since launched public service announcements promoting rideshare and Uber safety.
The foundation, led by Marci and Seymour Josephson, also pressed the U.S. House to pass legislation named for Sami Josephson which would require vehicles for ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to be clearly identifiable by passengers. The bill was never taken up by the Senate so it failed to become a law, though Representative Chris Smith is trying again.
While focused on ensuring the safety of other Uber passengers, Sami Josephson’s family is breathing a collective sigh of relief today. A week-long trial ended with a guilty verdict for Josephson’s murderer. Nathaniel Rowland was sentenced to life in prison, a punishment the victim’s family sees as justice.
“[Sami] was an amazing person, an amazing human being,” Newman explained to Rowland during the sentencing. “She obviously put up an amazing fight against you and left a sufficient trail for the jury to see what you did.”
On March 29, 2019, Sami Josephson was heading home after a night with her friends when she called an Uber. While waiting, Nathaniel Rowland pulled up with his black 2017 Chevy Impala, which Josephson mistook for her ride. With no way to escape, the innocent 21-year-old college senior was abducted and killed. Hours later her body was found, grossly mutilated by Rowland.
According to court records, Sami Josephson was stabbed 120 times and her body was left 65 miles away from the bar where she was last seen. The week-long trial revealed ample evidence to prove Rowland’s guilt. The prosecution called countless experts to the stand who were able to link Josephson’s blood to the inside of Rowland’s car. Her blood was also found on the alleged murder weapon.
“The evidence in this case — I chose the word avalanche — was so overwhelming. Law enforcement, in this case, did the best job in investigating this case that I have seen in the past 30 to 40 years,” Judge Newman told the courtroom Tuesday. He continued, saying that “there were 1,000 roads (to guilt). Each road led to you. A thousand trails. Each trail led to you. All the evidence … points to your guilt.”
During the trial, Nathaniel Rowland claimed he was innocent. While he didn’t testify under oath, Rowland told the courtroom that “I know I’m innocent, but I guess what I know or I think really doesn’t matter. I just wish the state would have done more in finding out who the actual person was instead of being satisfied with detaining me and proving my guilt.”
While the prosecution provided an “avalanche” of evidence against Rowland, his defense attorneys pointed out that scientists didn’t confirm Rowland’s DNA was on the alleged murder weapon. It was also pointed out that though Sami Josephson’s body was tested and swabbed, there were no traces of Rowland’s blood. And, while the Judge asserted that the victim put up a fight, there were no signs on Rowland’s body that indicated he was in a fight.
Still the attempts by the defense attorneys were futile. The prosecutors had conclusive evidence that placed Rowland at the scene of the crime. They also provided tracking information from Rowland’s phone that shows he traveled to and from where Josephson’s body was found. There was also surveillance footage that showed Rowland trying to sell Josephson’s phone after she was murdered.
After the jury’s one-hour deliberation and the guilty verdict was given, Sami Josephson’s family was allowed to speak. “You took her life — only an animal or monster does that,” said the victim’s father, Seymour Josephson. “I still to this day can’t watch videos of Samantha. I have repeated visions of him, the monster, stabbing her… I have visions of her screaming and fighting… I have such hatred running through me.”
Sami Josephson’s mother, Marci Josephson, told the judge that “her dreams were my dreams, and her death was my death… She never hurt anyone. Such a heinous, vicious crime — why?” She added that she was preparing to watch Sami Josephson graduate from college. She pointed out that she was forced to gather her daughter’s possessions instead.
“For what?” Marci Josephson said. “For the $35 a college student has in her bank account.”
Since Sami Josephson’s death, her family has been active on social media. After Nathaniel Rowland was sentenced to life in prison, her father, Seymour Josephson posted in all-caps: “GUILTY!!!”
Lesley Geller, a friend of the Josephson family, posted an update on Facebook with the hashtags #samistrong #WhatsMyName #rideshare. In the post, Geller wrote: “Justice. Life in prison where that monster belongs. No amount of justice can undo this horrible act of terror…but we can find a hint of comfort knowing he cannot act again. And we can remember her name: Samantha Josephson. Carry her and her family in your heart forever. One day at a time.”