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Nathaniel Rowland Trial: His DNA not found on Samantha Josephson, but someone else’s was, defense says

WIS will live stream every day of the trial until a verdict is reached.
Nathaniel Rowland appeared in court for day 1 of his murder trial July 20, 2021.
Nathaniel Rowland appeared in court for day 1 of his murder trial July 20, 2021.(WIS)
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 1:07 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The trial of Nathaniel Rowland, the man accused of kidnapping and killing University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson in March 2019, has begun.

Investigators believe Josephson accidentally got into Rowland’s car in Five Points thinking it was her Uber. Her body was found by turkey hunters 14 hours later in a field in Clarendon County.

Samantha Josephson was kidnapped and killed after a night out in Five Points in March 2019.
Samantha Josephson was kidnapped and killed after a night out in Five Points in March 2019.

Police say Rowland had stabbed her to death and dumped her body. He was arrested quickly and has been in jail ever since.

He and his family maintain his innocence.

CASE BACKGROUND | Trial of man accused in UofSC student’s kidnapping, death set to begin

After two days of jury selection, opening arguments began around 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Several witnesses also testified on day one of the trial.

A full recap of the day is below, and the entire video from day one can be watched here:

JURY SELECTION

Tuesday morning, the jury pool was reduced from 700 potential jurors to 12 jurors and four alternates.

There are 10 women and six men seated on the jury.

Of those, eight people are Black, two people are Hispanic, one person is Indian and five people are white.

Judge Clifton Newman started the second day of jury selection by asking if there were any potential jurors who felt as though they would not be good jurors. He asked if any of them had seen anything about this case in the media.

The judge then called out a long list of witnesses who would be testifying to see if any of the potential jurors knew them.

There were several who stood up, but all of them said they could still be fair and impartial despite their relationship with the witnesses.

THE STATE’S OPENING REMARKS

Solicitor Byron Gipson addressed the jury first, saying Josephson was supposed to be celebrating her graduation from college that fateful night in Five Points. Instead, he claimed she didn’t realize the defendant had his eyes on her as she walked outside alone to get her Uber.

Gipson said the evidence will show that once she got inside Rowland’s 2017 Black Impala, she couldn’t get out because the child safety locks were engaged.

The prosecutor said Rowland traveled to the Rosewood community first.

He said the evidence will show Josephson and Rowland’s phones tracked together in the vehicle at the same time. He said Rowland’s phone continues to ping up Sumter Highway, into Sumter and New Zion. He said Rowland dumped her body in New Zion -- two miles from his family home.

Gipson went on to say evidence would show someone using Josephson’s Wells Fargo card. He said there were nine attempts that were unsuccessful. He also said there is evidence Rowland tried to sell Josephson’s cell phone.

The solicitor told the jury that witnesses will talk about Josephson’s bloody clothes behind “Maria’s” home, to which Rowland had access. He said “Maria” would testify that she saw Rowland with the knife that was used to kill Josephson.

Gipson said there were 100 different stab wounds across the college student’s body.

OPENING STATEMENT FROM THE DEFENSE

Then, Public Defender Ashley Goode told the jury to remember the number zero.

Zero represents the amount of DNA matching Rowland found on Josephson’s body, she said.

She also said zero represents the number of times they will have anything bad to say about Josephson. The student wasn’t to blame and it was not her fault, Goode said, just like it’s not Rowland’s fault and he isn’t to blame for her death.

Goode said two South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) agents came to the crime scene and collected evidence, including cigarette butts, wounds on Josephson’s body, bite marks, and fingernails which were ripped and torn.

The defense attorney said agents swabbed Josephson’s mouth, as well, and out of all that evidence there wasn’t one piece of Rowland’s DNA.

She said it wasn’t his DNA, but there was someone else’s DNA.

SAMANTHA’S BOYFRIEND TESTIFIES

After opening statements ended, the first witness called was Greg Corbishley, Josephson’s boyfriend.

He started officially dating Josephson in spring 2017, two years before her murder, he said.

They did everything together, according to him.

He testified that he moved to Charleston after graduation, which is where he was the night of her abduction. She called him throughout the night, he said, and when she left the bar he was tracking her to make sure she made it home safely.

The tracking stopped on Montgomery Avenue in Rosewood, he recalled.

He tried calling her, but she didn’t answer. He said he went to sleep thinking she left her phone in an Uber.

Corbishley testified that when he woke up, he learned she was missing and drove to Columbia. He went to look at the security cameras in Five Points and saw her get into the Chevy Impala.

Later that day, he said police notified him that her body was found. He said he got weak in the knees and blacked out.

SAMANTHA’S ROOMMATE TAKES THE STAND

Several others took the witness stand Tuesday, including Josephson’s roommate, who said she last saw her friend at Bird Dog, a bar in Five Points, on the night of her disappearance.

The roommate said she went to Montgomery Avenue, where Corbishley had tracked Josephson’s phone, to look for her when she had not returned home. But she did not find anything.

She testified that she thought Josephson left her phone in an Uber, so she went home and went to sleep.

THE ACTUAL UBER DRIVER

A man who works as an Uber driver in Richland County also testified. He said he was called to pick Josephson up on the night she was kidnapped.

He said he arrived at the pick up spot given to him on the Uber app, but he did not see her. He tried to call her, but she did not answer, he testified.

The Uber driver said he drove around a bit, but after several minutes he canceled the ride because she did not show up.

He said he was questioned by the Columbia Police Department after the missing person’s report was filed.

The driver said he voluntarily gave a DNA sample on the day that Josephson disappeared.

OTHER WITNESSES

A SLED agent testified about responding to the missing person report.

It was first filed by Josephson’s roommate, who called 911 when she woke up the day after they went out and found her friend was still not home.

The agent said she went to Josephson’s work to see if she was there, or if she had called. She was not there, and had not called. A short time later, the agent handed the case over to investigators, she testified.

A man who worked security for Bird Dog also took the witness stand Tuesday.

He said he compiled the security footage of the outside of the bar from the night Josephson disappeared. Some of that was played in court.

When his testimony finished, the court adjourned at 4:30 p.m. It will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

LIVE TRIAL COVERAGE

Each day, look for a new story with the live stream of the trial on wistv.com or the WIS News app. Coverage will be updated throughout the day each day, until a verdict is reached.

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