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A woman mistook a car for her Uber ride. She was then murdered, police say

The body of Samantha Josephson, 21, was found about 65 miles from the University of South Carolina campus, police said.
The body of Samantha Josephson, 21, was found about 65 miles from the University of South Carolina campus, police said.(Columbia (S.C.) Police Department)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The man accused of killing a woman who got into his car thinking it was her Uber ride had activated the child locks in his backseat so the doors could only be opened from the outside, police in South Carolina say.

Columbia police Chief Skip Holbrook also said investigators found the victim’s blood in Nathaniel David Rowland’s vehicle. Rowland, 24, was arrested and charged in the death of 21-year-old Samantha Josephson, a University of South Carolina student from Robbinsville, N.J.

Investigators would not say what they think Rowland did to Josephson from the time she got into his black Chevrolet Impala in Columbia’s Five Points entertainment district around 1:30 a.m. Friday until her body was dumped in woods off a dirt road in Clarendon County about 65 miles away.

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Josephson had numerous wounds to her head, neck, face, upper body, leg, and foot, according to arrest warrants released Sunday by the State Law Enforcement Division. The documents didn’t say what was used to attack her.

Josephson’s blood was found in the trunk and inside Rowland’s car along with her cellphone, bleach, window cleaner, and cleaning wipes, Holbrook said.

‘‘This was a bad scene,’’ the police chief said at a news conference late Saturday.

Hunters found Josephson’s body Friday afternoon just hours after it was dumped, despite being left in an area that was ‘‘very difficult to get to unless you knew how to get there,’’ Holbrook said.

Rowland has recently lived in the area, he said.

The night after Josephson was kidnapped, a Columbia police officer noticed a black Chevrolet Impala about two blocks from the Five Points bars where Josephson was kidnapped. The driver ran, but was arrested after a short chase, Holbrook said.

Rowland is charged with kidnapping and murder, Holbrook said. He was being held in the Richland County jail. It wasn’t known if he had a lawyer.

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Rowland decided not to appear at a hearing in jail Sunday. The judge allowed Josephson’s mother to speak, The State newspaper reported.

Marci Josephson said her daughter was planning to go to law school after graduating in May and described her as ‘‘bubbly, loving, kind and full of life.’’

‘‘Unlike him, Samantha had love within her heart and purpose in her life,’’ Marci Josephson said.

Safety advocates urged college students to match the vehicle color and model, the license tag number, and the photo of their ride-share drivers before getting in a vehicle and make the driver say their names to them before they introduce themselves.

‘‘She simply, mistakenly, got into the car thinking it was an Uber ride,’’ Holbrook said.

The crime shook Columbia, the state capital where the University of South Carolina is one of the main economic engines.

South Carolina Governor 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.