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Witnesses testify in trial of man accused in Uber killing

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina man accused of killing a woman who mistook his vehicle for her Uber ride later tried to clean blood out of the car with bleach, a witness testified Wednesday.

Nathaniel Rowland is standing trial on kidnapping and murder charges in the death of 21-year-old Samantha Josephson. The University of South Carolina student from Robbinsville, New Jersey, disappeared from Columbia’s Five Points entertainment district one night in March 2019. It was the spring before she was set to graduate and head to law school.

Prosecutors have said surveillance camera footage showed Josephson getting into Rowland’s black Chevrolet Impala. Her body — covered with stab wounds, cuts and other abrasions — was later found dumped in some woods about 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Columbia. Other evidence previewed by prosecutors includes phone tracking data and video footage showing Rowland trying to use the victim’s debit card and sell her cell phone.

During the second day of witness testimony in the trial at the Richland County Judicial Center in Columbia, a woman who was dating Rowland at the time said he was late to drive her to work the morning after Josephson’s disappearance.

Maria Howard said that after Rowland arrived at her home, she noticed blood inside the car and watched him cleaning the car while wearing surgical gloves that day. Howard also testified that she saw Rowland clean a “knife-like” tool that prosecutors have previously indicated was the murder weapon.

Howard recalled Rowland telling her to “mind my business” when she asked about the blood.

Other witnesses on the stand Wednesday included the turkey hunter who found Josephson’s body in remote woods around New Zion, South Carolina, which is also Rowland’s hometown.

Several officers also testified about Rowland’s arrest during a traffic stop near the same entertainment district less than a day after Josephson was first captured on camera getting into his car. Body camera footage played in court Wednesday showed officers searching Rowland’s car where they found a rose gold iPhone, cleaning supplies and blood in the car. Authorities have said the phone and blood belonged to Josephson.

Among the first witnesses called Tuesday as the trial began were Josephson’s former boyfriend and roommate, who described frantically searching for her after her disappearance.

Josephson’s death drew national attention to safety concerns about ride-hailing services and prompted some changes. South Carolina lawmakers enacted a measure that requires drivers to make license plate numbers visible in the front of their vehicles and creates criminal penalties for people who impersonate ride-hailing drivers.

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