It took a little over an hour for a jury in the US state of South Carolina to convict Nathaniel Rowland of the kidnapping and murder of Samantha Josephson.
Ms Josephson, from New Jersey, got into Rowland’s car in March 2019, believing it was the Uber she had booked to take her from Columbia’s Five Points entertainment district to her apartment.
Prosecutors said Rowland circled the block several times before stopping next to Ms Josephson, who was waiting alone for her ride.
Once inside the vehicle, Rowland activated the child locks, meaning the doors could only be opened from the outside, effectively trapping Ms Josephson.
His body was found covered with 120 stab wounds, cuts and other wounds, thrown in a forest about 65 miles from the city.
Ms. Josephson was to graduate from the University of South Carolina and continue her law school on a full scholarship.
Her mother Marci Josephson spoke at Rowland’s sentencing hearing, saying of her daughter, “Her dreams were my dreams, and her death was my death. I close my eyes and feel what she’s been through in her hands. “
Rowland had insisted on her innocence, but Circuit Judge Clifton Newman was unconvinced, saying, “She obviously had an incredible fight against you and left enough traces for the jury to see what you did. “
Prosecution experts had tied Ms Josephson’s blood inside Rowland’s car and to a two-bladed knife – the alleged murder weapon.
His blood was found on cleaning supplies in the garbage behind Rowland’s girlfriend’s house at the time, and on a sock and bandana belonging to him.
A forensic scientist said DNA from Rowland’s fingernails matched the victim’s genetic material, and DNA belonging to both was found on gloves.
Prosecutors also presented video footage of Rowland trying to use Ms Josephson’s debit card and sell her cell phone after she went missing, along with phone tracking evidence.
Phones belonging to Ms Josephson and Rowland were located and found traveling together for about 20 minutes before her phone went off, experts said.
Her phone was left on all the way to New Zion – her hometown and near where Ms Josephson’s body was found.
Rowland did not testify and his attorneys did not call any witnesses, but argued that although Ms Josephson appeared to have fought him, none of his DNA was found on his body and he had no visible injuries during a fight during his arrest.
Ms Josephson’s death prompted changes to improve the safety of users of ridesharing apps like Uber.
These included a state law requiring drivers to make license plate numbers visible on the front of their vehicles and criminal penalties for those posing as taxi drivers.