COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) - The Clarendon County Coroner has released the cause of death for a 21-year-old USC student, whose body was recovered after police said she was abducted following a night out with friends in Five Points, investigators say.
Samantha Josephson was reported missing over the weekend, then her body was found in a rural area, 70 miles southeast, in New Zion, police said.
Columbia police said the 21-year-old was last seen by friends on Friday, at the Bird Dog Bar along Harden Street, sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m.
Police said Josephson was reportedly attempting to locate an Uber car she had ordered when she entered Nathaniel Rowland’s black Chevrolet Impala about 2 a.m. Friday.
Surveillance footage captured her talking on the phone before getting into a newer model Chevy Impala.
Hours later, she was reported missing, and soon after, her body was found in Clarendon County.
The Columbia Police Department transitioned the case to a homicide investigation after identifying a body, hours later, as Samantha Josephson, they announced via press conference Saturday, March 30th.
Officers said that at about 1:30 pm on March 29, Columbia Police Department officers responded to the victim's roommates' apartment after the victim had not come home from Five Points the following night.
Around the same time that Columbia PD put out their missing persons alert, Clarendon County Sheriff's Office responded to a body found in a wooded area, by local hunters in a rural part of the county Friday.
Columbia police chief William Holbrook said hours later, around 3 a.m. Saturday, a canine officer observed the suspect's black Impala in Five Points.
Officers then conducted a traffic stop and asked the suspect, Nathaniel Rowland, 24 to get out of the car.
The suspect, however, then started to flee on foot. After a short foot chase, officers caught and detained him.
Police on scene observed what appeared to be a large pool of blood in the car, calling in the same forensic team working in Clarendon County to continue the investigation.
Columbia Police Department immediately called SLED and forensic investigators to respond to the scene.
Josephson's blood was found in the truck and inside Rowland's car along with her cellphone, Holbrook said, along with bleach, window cleaner, and cleaning wipes.
The child safety locks were also activated for the back seat of the vehicle, preventing an exit, Holbrook said. He also noted there was a child's car seat in the back.
Thanks to expedited evidence analysis from the state lab, Holbrook says investigators confirmed that the blood found in the suspect's Impala was a match to Samantha's.
Police say then that the Impala was searched by investigators and the victim's cell phone was found in the passenger compartment.
The suspect was identified as Nathaniel David Rowland, 24, and faces murder and kidnapping charges.
A Columbia judge denied bond on Sunday afternoon for Nathaniel David Rowland on one count of murder and one count of kidnapping.
The suspect was arrested 24 hours after the murder, during a routine traffic stop in which police saw a large pool of what appeared to be blood. DNA matched that of Josephson, Columbia authorities said.
THE CAUSE OF DEATH
On Monday, Clarendon County Coroner Bucky Mock said an autopsy revealed Josephson died from multiple sharp force injuries.
According to Rowland's arrest warrants, Josephson had numerous wounds to her head, neck, face, upper body, leg, and foot.
Investigators have not said what type of weapon was used in the attack
THE STATE GRIEVES
During the press conference, Holbrook noted the very personal nature of the investigation, expressing condolences to Samantha's family.
"Our hearts are broken. There is nothing tougher than to stand before a family and explain how a loved one was murdered," said Holbrook. "It was gut-wrenching. This is personal to us."
Holbrook also gave a warning to anyone using rideshare services near Five Points to remain vigilant in the case of mistaken rider identities, and that users should ensure the cars and drivers picking them up to match what shows on the app.
He also noted Samantha is from New Jersey, and that her family has flown in during the investigation.
The crime shook Columbia, the state capital where the University of South Carolina is one of the main economic engines. Josephson was a student at the school.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and his wife, Peggy, asked on a message on Twitter for prayers for Josephson's family.
"Peggy and I are devastated and crushed over the Josephson family losing their beautiful daughter Samantha. She was one of the brightest young stars," McMaster wrote.
Saturday morning, the university tweeted a letter from President Harris Pastides, giving condolences to the Josephson family, Samantha's friends, and the entire Gamecocks community.
Dear Carolina Family,
It is with the heaviest of hearts that I write these words this morning. Our prayers are with the family and friends of Samantha Josephson following the devastating news of her death. Times like these leave me searching for words of wisdom and comfort. However, I take solace that the Carolina Family is here to embrace those who are hurting.
As you make plans for the weekend, remember the tenets of Stand Up Carolina: look out for one another, be active bystanders. Travel in groups and stay together. If you have not already done so, download the RAVE Guardian safety app, set up your profile and learn how to use it.
'Times like these leave me searching for words of wisdom and comfort. However, I take solace that the Carolina Family is here to embrace those who are hurting.'
It has been a difficult week for our extended Carolina family. The loss of a student is never easy but this has been a particularly painful few days as we have experienced loss on several of our campuses. As a family, let’s continue to pray for all the families experiencing heartache and grief this week.
Josephson's father also posted on Facebook about his family's loss, saying Samantha "is no longer with us but she will not be forgotten."
The 21-year-old's death marks the second USC student death in just one week. Evan Jeffery Gaines, 22, died Tuesday after suffering a gunshot wound.
CAMPAIGN STARTED TO COVER FUNERAL COST
A GoFundMe has been started in Samantha's honor, and has raised almost $40,000 in more than 24 hours, surpassing the goal of $5,000. You can check it out here.
According to Samantha's father, the funeral will be held in New Jersey.
Students who are in need of counseling are encouraged to visit the counseling center from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, or to call (803) 777-5223 any time of day, 24/7.
Stay with FOX Carolina as we gather updates to the story.