Family, friends remember Samantha Josephson, murdered after mistaking her killer's car for Uber

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Samantha Josephson, the University of South Carolina student who authorities say was murdered after mistaking her killer's car for an Uber and then was trapped in the back seat with child safety locks, was remembered at a tearful vigil on Sunday night.

With wet eyes and mournful embraces, about 500 people gathered at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center. About a dozen of Josephson's friends spoke in honor of her memory, as well as her boyfriend, Greg Corbishley, and father, Seymour Josephson.

They told the story of a lively 21-year-old who loved her friends and family and skillfully balanced her social life with her studies, which were set to take her to law school at Drexel University after her upcoming South Carolina graduation in May.

“I look at all of you guys, and I see that even in the short time that she was here, how many people she positively impacted with her energy and her positive attitude and her wildness," Corbishley said.

"Energy doesn’t die. It stays with you, and that positive energy is going to help me go on in living the rest of my life."

Nathaniel David Rowland, 24, is facing murder and kidnapping charges in the death of Josephson.

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said Josephson was standing near the Bird Dog bar in the city's Five Points entertainment district at about 2 a.m. Friday when Rowland rolled up in his Chevy Impala.

“She had, in fact, summoned an Uber ride,” Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said. “She simply mistakenly got into this car thinking it was an Uber.”

Friends of Josephson filed a missing persons report that afternoon when she did not return to The Hub, an apartment complex in Columbia where she lived with friends and was not reachable on her cellphone.

Less than three hours later, Clarendon County sheriff's deputies responded to a report that turkey hunters had found a body in a rural area 65 miles from where Josephson was last seen. The body was located in area known to Rowland, a place where he recently resided, Holbrook said.

Arrest warrants indicated Josephson suffered wounds to much of her body, including her head and neck.

"Our hearts are broken," Holbrook said. "There is nothing tougher than to stand before a family and explain how a loved one was murdered."

Police publicized details of the suspected vehicle at about the same time the body was found, Holbrook said. Around 3 a.m. Saturday, a Columbia canine officer stopped a black Chevy Impala two blocks from the Five Points area, Holbrook said.

The driver briefly fled on foot before being chased down and was taken into custody. Holbrook said Josephson's phone was found in the car, along with "a lot of blood," bleach and other cleaning supplies.

The vehicle's child locks were activated, which would have prevented escape, Holbrook said.

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides offered condolences to her loved ones. He also pleaded with students to be careful.

"Look out for one another, be active bystanders," he said. "Travel in groups and stay together."

A gofundme campaign for funeral and memorial costs, with a goal of $5,000, had drawn more than $35,000 in pledges Sunday. Josephson’s father, Seymour Josephson, posted a note on Facebook with details for her funeral Wednesday in her native New Jersey.

“I will miss and love my baby girl for the rest of life," he said. "Samantha is no longer with us but she will not be forgotten."

Bacon reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Donna Isbell Walker and Mollie R. Simon, The Greenville News

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Family, friends remember Samantha Josephson, murdered after mistaking her killer's car for Uber