A South Carolina man has been convicted of abducting and murdering the woman who mistook his car for her Uber ride in 2019.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina man was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for the 2019 abduction and murder of a 21-year-old college student who mistook his car for her Uber ride.
The jury took a little more than an hour to find Nathaniel Rowland guilty of killing Samantha Josephson, a University of South Carolina student who disappeared from Columbia’s Five Points entertainment district in March 2019.
“Her dreams were my dreams, and her death was my death. I close my eyes, and I feel what she endured at his hands,” the victim’s mother, Marci Josephson, said during the sentencing phase of Rowland’s trial Tuesday.
The student from Robbinsville, New Jersey, got into Rowland’s car thinking it was an Uber ride that would take her back to her apartment, prosecutors said. Instead, she found herself trapped because Rowland had the childproof locks on, investigators said. She was never seen alive again.
Covered in roughly 120 stab wounds, her body was later found in remote woods about 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Columbia. The death cast a national spotlight on ride-hailing safety and led to some changes, including more prominent displays of driver’s license plates.
Rowland maintained his innocence before being sentenced, but Circuit Judge Clifton Newman noted that all the evidence pointed to Rowland.
“She obviously put up an amazing fight against you and left a sufficient trail for the jury to see what you did,” Newman said after sentencing Rowland to life in prison. A person convicted of murder is not eligible for parole in South Carolina.
Wearing a mask, Rowland showed little emotion as Josephson’s relatives reflected on the pain of their loss and how Josephson’s future – the college senior was slated to attend law school on a full scholarship – was cut short.
The prosecution spent about a week presenting voluminous evidence and called nearly three dozen witnesses. Experts linked Josephson’s blood to the interior of Rowland’s Chevrolet Impala and to the suspected murder weapon, a knife with two blades. Her blood was also found on cleaning supplies in the trash behind the home of the man’s girlfriend at the time — and on a sock and bandana owned by Rowland, the experts testified.
Other evidence included cellphone tracking data pinpointing Rowland’s location the night of the crime. One forensic scientist testified that DNA collected from Rowland’s fingernails matched the victim’s genetic material, and DNA belonging to both suspect and victim were found on gloves also located in the trash.
Rowland’s defense attorneys pointed out that scientists weren’t absolutely certain Rowland’s DNA was on the knife. His attorneys also argued that although Josephson appeared to fight her attacker, none of Rowland’s DNA was found on her body and he had no visible marks of such a fight after his arrest. The defense called no witnesses, and Rowland did not testify.
Before resting the defense’s case, Rowland’s lawyer asked the charges be thrown out because prosecutors had a circumstantial case — never showing that Rowland actually killed Josephson nor that he was driving the vehicle when she disappeared.
Newman rejected the request, saying there was an avalanche of direct and circumstantial evidence that a jury should consider.
Jeffrey Collins contributed to this report.
Liu is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.
Maryland newspaper gunman gets more than 5 life prison terms
A man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper more than three years ago is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday for one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A man who killed five people at a newspaper in Maryland was sentenced on Tuesday to more than five life sentences without the possibility of parole — with 345 additional years added on to ensure he is never released from prison.
Anne Arundel County Judge Michael Wachs ordered the sentence for Jarrod Ramos, whom a jury previously found criminally responsible for killing Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith with a shotgun at the Capital Gazette’s office in June 2018.
The assault was one of the worst attacks on journalists in U.S. history.
Before announcing the sentence, the judge heard survivors and family members of the slain describe the pain and loss they have experienced. He emphasized the courage of family members who spoke.
“The defendant did not get the final say,” Wachs said. “The First Amendment and the community got the final say.”
Wachs also pointed out that Ramos showed no remorse for the crimes and had said he would kill more if he were ever released. He described Ramos’ actions as a “cold-blooded, calculated attack on the innocent employees of a small-town newspaper.”
“The impact of this case is just simply immense,” Wachs said. “To say that the defendant exhibited a callous and complete disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply a huge understatement.”
Survivors described the shooting as an attack on journalism. Selene San Felice, a former reporter at the paper, said that while Ramos killed five of her colleagues, he could not stop the newspaper.
“Remember this: You cannot kill the truth,” San Felice said.
Ramos had pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible to all 23 counts against him in 2019, using Maryland’s version of an insanity defense. The case was delayed several times before and during the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to the five life sentences without possibility of parole, Wachs ordered another life sentence for the attempted murder of photographer Paul Gillespie, who had said that Ramos narrowly missed him with a shotgun blast as he ran out of the newsroom. The judge also sentenced Ramos to 345 years in prison on the other charges.
“The judge was crystal clear that Jarrod Ramos should never be allowed to walk out of prison — ever,” said Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.
Family members of the slain cried in court as they described the anguish they have endured and the impact the attack had on the community of Maryland’s state capital.
“We lost the storyteller of our family, and as a community we lost the storyteller for everyone that is an Annapolitan,” said Montana Winters Geimer, Winters’ daughter.
San Felice, who survived by hiding under a desk during the attack, told journalists outside the courthouse that it felt good to see authorities “take him away forever.”
“It felt really good to be able to look the judge in the eye and also to be able to look the shooter in the eye,” San Felice said. “It meant a lot to me to be able to tell him to his face that he failed.”
Ramos, who sat in court wearing a black mask, declined to make a statement in court when asked by his attorney, Katy O’Donnell.
After a 12-day trial in July, a jury took less than two hours to reject arguments from Ramos’ attorneys that he could not understand the criminality of his actions.
Prosecutors contended Ramos, 41, acted out of revenge against the newspaper after it published a story about his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of harassing a former high school classmate in 2011. Prosecutors said his long, meticulous planning for the attack — which included preparations for his arrest and long incarceration — proved he understood the criminality of his actions.
Prosecutors also emphasized how Ramos called 911 from the newsroom after the shooting, identified himself as the gunman and said he surrendered — evidence he clearly understood the criminality of his actions.
This story has been edited to correct the spelling of McNamara.
© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.
Arlington Co. plans to change rules on how it interacts with ICE
Arlington County, Virginia, has released a framework for updating policies around undocumented immigrants in hopes to sow trust in the county government.
Arlington County, Virginia, has released a framework for updating policies around undocumented immigrants in the hopes of sowing trust in the county government.
County Board President Matt de Ferranti said the new policies look to reaffirm access to county services for undocumented immigrants. They will also likely change how local law enforcement works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
De Ferranti told WTOP that the framework covers three areas.
The first is protecting the information of immigrants. “Unless legally required to, which is very limited,” de Ferranti said, “we’re not requesting immigrant status.”
Second, the framework reaffirms that all residents, regardless of immigration status, will have access to county services.
Most notably, the board could change the policy of when county police contact ICE.
The current code says that Arlington police should only contact ICE under the following circumstances:
- The subject has been arrested for a felony.
- The subject has been arrested for a terrorism-related offense or is suspected of involvement in terrorism.
- The subject has been arrested for suspected trafficking of other undocumented immigrants.
- The arresting officer finds through a check that there is an active ICE detainer; that officer must notify a supervisor of their intention to make an arrest.
- The subject is suspected of criminal street gang activity, which must be be confirmed by the Gang Unit.
Under the proposed framework, ICE would not be contacted after a non-violent felony charge.
“If it’s minor shoplifting that could reach the level of a felony — because the felony threshold is still too low, in my view and in our view, in Virginia — that might be a case where we would not raise it to the level of Immigrant and Customs Enforcement,” said de Ferranti. “That issue is really about focusing on guardianship and safety for everyone in our community, rather than distracting or catching up individuals who might have shoplifted.”
The board president said the aim of the framework is to “make sure that we’re not in the business of enforcing, in any cases, federal immigration law, which is the responsibility of the federal government. We want to … be even tighter and more narrow, so that we’re not inadvertently, through our processes, getting any individuals caught up with our system unless federal and state law require that we do so.”
De Ferranti said he and the board decided to look at updating these policies after speaking with immigrant advocacy groups and Arlington Police Chief Charles Penn, who de Ferranti said “wants to tighten up and really focus our processes on guardianship.”
The board president will likely use Fairfax County’s Trust policy as a model moving forward.
The Arlington County Board will accept feedback over the next month, with plans to update the rules by the end of the year.
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‘Devious licks’ social media challenge prompts vandalism in DC-area schools
Vandalism inspired by a TikTok trend called “devious licks” is leaving a bad aftertaste among school administrators nationwide, including some in the D.C. area.
The latest back-to-school trend, courtesy of TikTok, is leaving school administrators across the country frustrated, including some in the D.C. area.
The “devious licks” challenge recently went viral on social media, inspiring students to steal or vandalize school property and post their exploits on TikTok.
Much of the vandalism and thefts have occurred in school bathrooms — a trend that prompted the principal of a Prince William County, Virginia, high school to warn that students will be disciplined for their actions.
“Last Friday, we experienced significant vandalism in our boys’ bathrooms, which included removing soap bags from soap dispensers to place them in the toilet, stuffing the toilets with paper towels, throwing trash throughout the bathroom, and stealing items from the bathrooms,” Lisamarie Kane, principal of Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, wrote in a letter Monday.
She said the school had to close some of the bathrooms but will reopen them Tuesday “with an extensive monitoring plan to help prevent this vandalism from occurring.”
Diana Gulotta, spokeswoman for Prince William County Schools, told WTOP that any students involved would be disciplined according to the county’s code of behavior.
Damage has also been reported at Falls Church High School and Rocky Run Middle School in Fairfax County.
“We are aware of several incidents of damage to school property related to a troubling TikTok challenge. Disciplinary action has and will be taken against those who participate in this behavior as part of our Students Rights and Responsibilities,” Fairfax County Public Schools spokeswoman Julie Moult said in an email.
Loudoun County Public Schools said it had some minor incidents related to the challenge but that there was no substantial damage.
D.C. Public Schools told WTOP that it has not seen any incidents. WTOP has contacted Montgomery and Prince George’s County schools in Maryland for comment.
Across the country, some students have been arrested and charged in connection to the challenge. Administrators are also warning that students could be suspended or forced to pay restitution for any damage they cause.
A spokesperson for TikTok said the social media platform was removing “devious licks” content and redirecting hashtags to its guidelines to discourage the behavior and that it doesn’t allow content that “promotes or enables criminal activities.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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