“Her dreams were my dreams, and her death was my death,” Marci Josephson said in court. “I close my eyes, and I feel what she endured at his hands — 120 times.
“I used to have dreams for her, and now all I have are nightmares.”
A judge sentenced Rowland to life in prison on Tuesday, soon after Marci Josephson’s courtroom remarks. A jury unanimously found the 27-year-old South Carolina man guilty of Samantha Josephson’s murder after an hour-long deliberation.
“[Samantha] was an amazing person, an amazing human being,” Judge Clifton Newman told 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.”
Rowland’s defense argued that experts were not certain the blood was a match, claiming further that none of Josephson’s DNA was found on Rowland’s body.
But it was not enough to overcome the dozens of witnesses and mountain of evidence that prosecution presented. The defense called no witnesses, and Rowland did not testify.
The case shed light on how bad actors can easily impersonate Uber drivers and prey on the vulnerable. Only months before Josephson was killed, a fake Uber driver was accused of raping five women in the Chicago area. And in July 2018, a woman jumped out of a car after a man impersonating an Uber driver picked her up on the Las Vegas Strip. Some 80 women have sued the ride-hailing giant, alleging its insufficient safety measures led to assaults against them.
Less than a month after Josephson’s killing, Uber introduced a measure to help customers avoid impostor drivers, including sending a reminder to check a driver’s license plate.
A jury on Tuesday found that Rowland was one of those impostors. Prosecutors presented evidence showing that before Josephson left her friends at a bar in Columbia and got into Rowland’s car, the man had been circling the block in his Chevy Impala. He then pulled into a parking space next to where Josephson was waiting, and she mistakenly got into the car.
After Rowland dumped Josephson’s body two miles from his family home in New Zion, prosecutors said he drove to a Wells Fargo and tried to withdraw cash using Josephson’s debit card. Rowland subsequently tried to sell Josephson’s cellphone, prosecutors said. A day after the murder, Rowland was pulled over close to where he picked up Josephson in Five Points, fled on foot and was eventually apprehended.
Marci Josephson described how she had been preparing to visit Columbia to watch her daughter graduate from college. Instead, she had to go collect her belongings after the murder.
“For what?” her mother asked. “For the $35 a college student has in her bank account?”
Josephson’s father, Seymour, explained that he frequently has nightmares about how his daughter died. “I have repeated … visions of him — the monster — stabbing her,” Seymour Josephson said in court, gesturing at Rowland. “I have visions of her foot on the back window. I have visions of her screaming and fighting.”
Rowland did not show emotion as Josephson’s family members and the judge addressed him on Tuesday, nor did his family. His mother tried to tell the judge that her son was innocent before he cut her off.
“Ma’am, I’m not going to hear any claims of innocence,” Newman said. “He has been convicted by the jury.”