COLUMBIA, S.C. — Jurors in the trial of the man charged with killing University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson heard from a forensic expert who showed them a evidence recovered from the car of the suspect and a home where he stayed.
The prosecution is continuing to call witnesses in their case against Nathaniel Rowland, who's charged with the murder and kidnapping of Josephson, a senior from New Jersey majoring in political science at the college. Police have said she was out with friends on March 29, 2019 in Columbia's Five Points district when she mistakenly got into a car she thought was her Uber ride.
On Thursday, forensic experts dominated the testimony, as prosecutors brought up several witnesses who went through the evidence that prosecutors say links Rowland to Josephson's death.
WLTX has live coverage of the proceedings here on WLTX.com, the News19 YouTube page, and on WLTX's Roku and Amazon Fire apps.
Lt. Todd Schenk with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) continued his testimony as to how he and other investigators processed the scene near New Zion where Samantha Josephson’s body was found. He testifies to observing multiple suspected stab wounds on Josephson’s body and broken fingernails and the condition of her clothing. He testified that he scraped the hands to gather any material that might be under her fingernails, and collected a DNA swab, fingerprints and hair samples from the body.
On the return trip to Columbia, the SLED crime scene team is called to the Five Points location where Rowland’s 2017 Impala has been found around 3 a.m. on March 30, 2019, a day after Josephson went missing. While processing the vehicle, Schenk notices child lock has been engaged, there is a child booster seat in the back, and an owner’s manual for the vehicle. He and his partner document the scene as is and get the car towed to a secure location at Columbia Police Department for further investigation.
Investigators collected fingerprints and swabbed the steering wheel and gear shift from the vehicle.
Schenk recounts how evidence samples are gathered, cataloged and basic chain of command.
On redirect, Schenk testifies that it is possible that Josephson was dragged to the site because of markings on her arms. Clothing pulled up over her head and her positioning and no blood trail to indicate she ran to that spot made investigators believe she had been placed there.
He said officers gather as much information as possible--sometimes the evidence collected is important and valuable, sometimes insignificant, but all evidence is secured. Schenk’s job is to collect evidence, not test evidence. He testifies that sometimes he learns later that some evidence gathered from crime scenes are not tested or analyzed.
The prosecution next calls Oshamar Williams, the owner of Cellular City cell phone repair on Monticello Road in Columbia, to the stand. On March 29, 2019, a surveillance video from Williams’ store shows a person entering the store in an attempt to sell an iPhone 7+ cell phone that morning.
The SIM card was missing, so Williams plugged the phone into his computer to retrieve the phone’s serial number – which he does for every potential transaction. Williams was successful in recording the serial number and charging the phone. The process took approximately 15-20 minutes. At that time, the phone had not been reported lost or stolen.
Williams and the seller could not come to an agreement on a sale price on the iPhone, so the person took the phone back. Williams noted there was no passcode/password on the phone and the phone was not locked.
Williams remembers the person who came in was driving a dark-colored Impala.
Williams is asked if he saw anything while trying to revive the phone. He says he believes he recalls seeing a Caucasian woman in a holiday photo on the phone and identifies Rowland as the person trying to sell him the phone.
On cross-examination, Williams is asked about the positions of the multiple surveillance cameras in his store and if the cameras are synched to record same time/date.
The court breaks for 10 minutes before the next witness is called.
After the break, the prosecution calls SLED investigator Delilah Cirencione who – along with Lt. Schenk -- processed the New Zion crime scene and later the Five Points location where the suspect’s Impala was found. The agent documented the scenes with photographs and assisted in gathering physical evidence from the scenes.
She also processed Rowland after his arrest by taking photographs of Rowland, swabbing the suspect’s hands and tennis shoes, and taking scrapings from under his fingernails. That material was entered into the chain of evidence and secured.
Cirencione then began processing the suspect’s black Impala. On the stand, she goes over the list of physical evidence taken from the Impala including a pair of gloves and hat, a black-and-red flip-flop sandal, and photographic evidence of suspected blood on the floorboards, rear console and front headrest.
Cirencione was then called to process a residence of interest off Leesburg Road, a duplex where Maria Howard lived. She and agent Dawn Claycom processed the scene and collected evidence – documenting everything at the scene before collecting items.
At the duplex, garbage and items of interest were found in a large trash can on the property -- including garbage and grocery bags containing multi-colored bed sheets, a towel, blue vinyl gloves, paper towels and cleaning wipes, a pair of black gloves, a multi-tool (weapon suspected used in the crime also contained suspected hair sample), and a khaki shirt with suspected bloodstains. Other grocery bags contained dark-colored pants and hoodie, more cleaning products, a bank receipt, items from Wendy’s restaurant (wrappers, part of a sandwich).
Photos of the exterior/back yard of the duplex shows tire impressions from a vehicle driving through the yard.
Photographic evidence from the inside of the home shows various rooms in the home – including the back door into the kitchen, an upstairs bedroom and a closet under the stairs.
Cirencione testifies evidence collected from the house includes a pair of child-sized pink Adidas shoe with suspected blood stains on the soles from the closet; a grey-colored pillowcase with suspected blood and a black glove that contained suspected hair and blood samples from a white laundry basket in the bedroom. A clear bag with an edible substance collected as suspected drugs was also collected from a closet shelf in the bedroom.
Also, Cirencione testifies she was later sent to the Bluff Road detention center to take photographic evidence of the suspect Nathaniel Rowland and to collect and secure his clothing as evidence – black Jordan tennis shoes, a pair of black colored socks, grey Puma sweat pants, and grey Puma hoodie.
On April 2, 2019, investigators Cirencione and Schenk went back to Bluff Road to obtain DNA swabs from Rowland.
On cross-examination, Cirencione was asked about the timeline of gathering evidence and procedures used on March 29, 2019 – were gloves used, items collected as-is, items secured properly – first in Clarendon County, near New Zion, then near Saluda Avenue in Five Points in Columbia and later to CPD on Bluff Road Rowland had been taken.
At the Bluff Road detention center, Cirencione took pictures of Rowland's face, front and back of his hands and arms to document his appearance at the time of his arrest.
Cirencione and Schenk then go to the area where the Impala had been secured to further process the vehicle – take photographs and collect physical evidence.
An earring, debit card, and purse are not found/collected from the vehicle, as far as Cirencione can recollect.
The photos of Rowland were not entered into evidence in court by the prosecution. Cirencione did not recall seeing any cuts or scrapes on Rowland’s face, hands or arms during the documentation procedure.
Investigator Allison Fitzgerald with the Columbia Police Department took the stand for her involvement into the investigation of Josephson's kidnapping. Asked about her involvement, she said she and others came in on Monday after the incident had happened and they were all assigned tasks.
Fitzgerald currently works as an investigator with the Special Victims Unit which focuses on domestic violence, sexual assault cases, any cases with children, missing people, and people who have run away.
She was tasked with helping follow up with some search warrants and other leads. She obtained search warrants for Capital Waste Services and FedEx which had employed Roland.
The items were both entered into evidence despite the objection of the defense who said the documents were "unauthenticated." The prosecution suggested that they were "self-authenticating" under Article 9, Chapter 5, Title 19 given the certification of business records.
The judge ultimately admitted them.
Fitzgerald said she also found a lead regarding a female who she said Rowland used to come to work with. She said they also went to multiple Dollar General stores to locate potential surveillance video to see if Rowland had bought the products from any of the stores in the area. She said they visited at least five.
They were unsuccessful in finding additional evidence, Fitzgerald said. The defense cross-examined her. Fitzgerald confirmed that they never found a store that sold all of the products mentioned. She also confirmed that they never saw him on surveillance video in the stores that did carry the products.
SLED forensics lab specialist John Allan "Jack" Jamieson then took the stand answering questions regarding his findings while investigating handwriting matches between items found at the scene where Josephson's body was found and that of Rowland. Jamieson said he was employed as a question document examiner with the state agency.
He said there was a submission made to the SLED lab regarding question document work. He would later point out that, in this process, he has no idea who the writer actually is and only compares the documents themselves.
"I received certain documents, performed a comparison between those documents, I then published a report," he said.
He described the steps as a three-step process. First, he would go through the question document to determine that it was an original and not a copy before then looking for identifiable features.
He then confirmed for the court that an item presented to him in the courtroom was one submitted for his analysis and it was admitted to evidence and presented to the jury. Jamieson shared the process of comparing different documents to determine the likelihood that they were written by the same person.
He said he then analyzed the known document, also checking that they are original, contain identifying features and are enough to base a comparison. The process moves on to make sure that each set of documents, in itself, is written by the same person before finally issuing a tiered response to determine the likelihood that both sets were written by the same person.
Prosecutors then asked him to read out what was written on the envelope - the evidence - he was handed.
"We have a number four, and we have a circled out or overwritten portion under the number four, we have 'job' - J-O-B," he said. "Beside it is another overwritten portion and then there's a colon 30, 3-0, 4 p.m. Next line is 'duck tape,' 'tape whole body.' Next line is 'gloves.' Next line is, 'all black.' Next line is 'flip phone.' Next line is 'gasoline.' Next line is, 'Matches.' And then there's a crossed-out line below the matches line."
Jamieson next confirmed that two more items handed to him were the other documents compared to the above words and explained how he performed the comparison of each - highlighting certain letters and words with similar features.
His report ultimately came to the conclusion that it was probably that the writer of the known documents was the writer of the question document. He said that that would mean a "high degree of likelihood" that they were written by the same person.
He explained that, on the spectrum of the likelihood that these were written by the same person. This sits ahead of "I don't know" and "Indications" but below "Strong" and "Identified."
The defense countered in their questioning that Jamieson's work wouldn't deal with fingerprints or DNA, that writing style can change over time, and that his determination was not an outright confirmation that the two were the same.
She also confirmed with him that he had requested more of the "known documents" but never received them.
Michael Moskal with SLED's trace evidence department in the forensics division was the next to be seated and was asked about his qualifications, including 15 years with the agency and his previous career as a high school chemistry teacher.
He described his work as finding and examining evidence that is sometimes difficult to discover. This can sometimes require special instrumentation to uncover evidence such as gunshot residue, paint chips from a hit-and-run, glass from breaking and entering cases, fibers, explosives, and "unknowns."
Ultimately, the prosecution asked for a description of his training and previous testimony as an expert witness.
He explained, during his testimony, how he determined how certain chemicals, such as bleach, may have been used in these situations.
"I was informed that I would have a variety of evidence where there was an interest in terms of whether or not bleach was present on these items," he said.
He then explained oxidizers in simple terms and how they play a part in a "redox reaction."
"It has one part that is a reducer and another part that is an oxidizer," he said.
He added that the overall reaction can be very slow like rust or very fast like fire. They can also cause discoloration seen on clothing when bleach is used.
"An example of a strong oxidizer would be a chlorinated bleach solution," he said.
He then described the process of finding out if such a chemical was used. He said one method was a chemical spot test that would determine if the chemical were present by changing color.
"So, when we add diphenylamine to a solution, if it turns a dark blue instantly, that indicates that there is a strong oxidizer present," Moskal said.
He then examined items to be entered into evidence, including a bleach bottle on which he performed analysis. He then confirmed that he performed a test on another object, germicidal wipes, where he also found signs of a strong oxidizer including chlorine bleach.
Moskal then examined a third item, a bottle of cleaner which he said contained a solvent and a strong oxidizer containing chlorine.
He next examined two cuttings from a black left-hand glove and a pair of gray Puma sweatpants tied to the case that he placed in a solution for testing.
While taking the cuttings, Moskal said he noted an area of discoloration that he suggested appeared to be bleaching.
However, the two-part test searching for evidence of sodium hydrochloride - the active ingredient in bleach, was inconclusive. Moskal said that if either part of the test fails, this is the result; though, he added that the chemical degrades quickly when exposed to air and other substances.
Furthermore, some of the substances tied to bleach use, sodium, chlorine, and oxygen, can occur in other ways not related to bleach, he said when questioned by Rowland's defense.
But the prosecution countered that the other items don't give off the distinct smell of "pool cleaner" that is evidenced with bleach.
Dawn Claycomb then took the stand explaining her role as a SLED crime scene agent at the time of this particular investigation. During Josephson's autopsy, Claycomb took swabs and prints from the victim's ankles and feet.
As part of the process, she also made note of injuries to Josephson's hands and feet while also taking several photographs. These included wounds to the right hand, the bottom of the right foot, and the left hand along with small scratches and discoloration of the nailbeds on one hand.
Claycomb then went over each individual piece of clothing as it was presented by the prosecution. which included pants with blood on them as well as a shirt she said was so covered in blood that it was hard to tell its natural color.
The final person called to the stand for the day was Investigator David Britain Dove who is a lieutenant of the SLED computer crimes division. He spoke on the investigation into four phones recovered that night - two they believe belonged to Rowland, one to Josephson and another to Maria Howard.
He explained that data available from the phones varied due to the type of phone, whether it was locked and how the particular phone reacted to their investigative tools.
He pointed out that there were three types of extraction methods: a physical extraction that recovered the most information, a file system extraction that gathers less, and a logical extraction that pulls the least data.
He added that the victim's phone had location tracking turned on which they were able to download and track its movements until 2:33 a.m. He presented this to the courtroom through a digital map explaining when the phone appeared in different locations - generally in the Five Points area before eventually moving toward Rosewood.
The phone was then turned off or ran out of battery but came back on in several places as well.
He was also able to identify texts to and from the former girlfriend's phone. One of them sent from the phone said that her daughter's shoes had gotten blood on them. A follow-up text adds "from when she got in the car last night."
A response suggested that she didn't need to buy new shoes because the blood was on the bottom.
Rowland's former girlfriend testified that she saw Rowland cleaning blood from his car hours after Josephson's killing.
Maria Howard told the court that Rowland, who'd been staying at her home, came to her home to take her to work. She said he told her that her visor, which she'd left in his car, had blood on it. When she asked why, she claimed he told her "none of your business."
She said when she got in his car, there was dried blood on the dashboard and beside the seats. In the backseat, she said there was some blood and a sheet covering most of the seating area.
She said later, he was cleaning the car with some kind of chemical that smelled like bleach and was using cleaning wipes. She said he also cleaned a small hunter's knife.
She said she didn't go to police because she was scared.
Watch Maria Howard's full testimony
Jurors also heard from a crime scene investigator who said they found a significant amount of blood in Rowland's car. Lt. Todd Schenk with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said they found evidence of cleaning fluids in the car as well as a bloody visor.
Schenk also described the condition of Josephson's body when they first observed it.
Also on the stand was Anders Lee, 25, one of the turkey hunters who found Josephson's body in a wooded area of Clarendon County testified that he was startled by what he saw.
And prosecutors played dash cam and body cam video of the moments when Rowland was arrested in Columbia's Five Points about 24 hours after Josephson's kidnapping.
VIDEO: Full Day 3 testimony in Samantha Josephson Case
The Basics of the Case
Josephson was a political science major from New Jersey who was planning to enter law school in the fall of 2019.
On the night of the killing, Columbia Police investigators say Josephson went out with friends in the city's Five Points entertainment district but got separated from her group. Around 2:00 a.m. on March 29, she used her phone to call an Uber ride, and investigators say she mistakenly got into a vehicle that she believed was the vehicle that she contacted.
Instead, police say it was a vehicle driven by Rowland, who did not work for Uber or another rideshare company. Police haven't said much about the moments following her getting into the car, but investigators say at some point after the car left the Five Points area, Rowland stabbed Josephson multiple times, killing her.
Police have claimed he then drove to a remote area of Clarendon County, South Carolina--an area 70 miles from the crime scene--where he left her body in a wooded area.
Around 1:30 p.m., less than 12 hours after she went missing and after hours of searching on their own, her friends reported her missing to police. About two hours later, two turkey hunters found Josephson's body off that dirt road in Clarendon County.
At 3:30 a.m. the next morning, an officer spotted saw a vehicle in Five Points that matched what was seen on surveillance video. Police said when they tried to pull the car over, Rowland ran, but was taken into custody after a short foot chase.
Josephson case led to changes
Soon after her death, Samantha's father and mother called for changes with rideshare services to make it clearer to riders if their driver was legitimate. Both have since become advocates on this topic, forming the organization "What's My Name" to educate people on rideshare safety.
Both Uber and Lyft made some changes in the wake of her death, including installing a feature that lets users call 911 from their app. The U.S. House passed a bill called "Sami's Law" requiring ride-sharing firms like Uber and Lyft to match drivers and passengers. And the South Carolina legislature passed a similar bill that also required rideshare drivers to display their license plate number on the front of their car.