COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A forensic scientist testified Friday that DNA found under the fingernails of the South Carolina man accused of killing a woman who mistook his car for her Uber ride is almost definitely the victim’s.
Prosecutors called several law enforcement experts to the witness stand at the end of the first week of trial for Nathaniel Rowland, who faces murder and kidnapping charges in the death of 21-year-old Samantha Josephson.
The University of South Carolina student from Robbinsville, New Jersey, disappeared from Columbia’s Five Points entertainment district one night in March 2019. Her body was later found in remote woods some 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Columbia.
Her body had more than 100 wounds to the face, neck and other parts of the body — a death that turned a national spotlight on ride-hailing safety and led to some changes, including more prominent displays of driver license plates.
Prosecutors have argued that Rowland trapped Josephson in the back seat of his black Chevrolet Impala using the backseat childproof locks. Investigators said they subsequently found the victim’s blood and cellphone in Rowland’s vehicle.
Ryan Dewane, a forensic scientist with the State Law Enforcement Division, said there was “very strong support” that DNA found under Rowland’s nails belonged to Josephson.
The victim’s DNA also was likely found on a sock and a bandanna belonging to Rowland, as well as on a bladed multitool alleged to be the murder weapon, Dewane told jurors.
Both Rowland and Josephson’s DNA were likely identified on gloves found in a trash can at the home of Rowland’s girlfriend at the time, Dewayne said.
Though Josephson’s fingernails also were swabbed, testing did not indicate Rowland’s DNA was present, the forensic scientist said. The tests did indicate DNA belonging to two male individuals under some of the victim’s fingernails.
Rowland’s attorneys have said that although Josephson appeared to fight back against her attacker, none of Rowland’s DNA was found on her body, and no visible marks were found on Rowland after his arrest.
SLED agent Eric Grabsky testified earlier Friday on cellphone data showing Rowland’s phone connected with cell towers in the Five Points area at the time of Josephson’s disappearance. The data showed Rowland’s phone then moved toward the area where Josephson’s body was eventually found.