Friends, family and coworkers of 21-year-old Samantha Josephson grieved Saturday the loss of the University of South Carolina student.
Rich Vascovich, operating partner at Liberty Tap Room in Columbia, said he became concerned when Josephson did not show up for her Friday morning shift. He said Josephson’s friends called and asked him if she had shown up for work, since they had not heard from her.
“That kind of clued us in that something wasn’t right,” Vascovich said.
Josephson was found dead on Friday afternoon in the small town of New Zion, in Clarendon County. Police said in a news conference Saturday night that two hunters came across a body about 40 feet from a rural dirt road in New Zion. Police later identified it as Josephson.
Twenty five hours after Josephson was last seen, in the Five Points area of Columbia, police conducted a traffic stop a few blocks from the popular college hangout neighborhood, and stopped 24-year-old Nathaniel David Rowland.
The black Chevrolet Impala Rowland was driving matched the one Josephson was seen getting into the previous night. Police say they found “a lot of” Josephson’s blood in the vehicle. He eventually was charged with kidnapping and murder.
After hearing the news of Josephson’s death, Vascovich said the mood was somber at Liberty.
Josephson, who was from New Jersey, had been working as a server at the Vista restaurant for about six months, Vascovich said, though she was friends with employees at the restaurant for longer.
“She was sweet as can be.,” Vasvovich said. “She was very fun-loving, well-liked, kind, very kindhearted, always smiling. She was honestly one of those people you loved to be around.”
Matt Owens said he worked with Josephson in Columbia. They bonded over being from the northeastern part of the country and going to USC. He posted on social media and described her as a “bright and poised young woman.”
“Each moment I had will be cherished,” he wrote.
While a student at the University of South Carolina, Josephson studied political science. She was set to graduate in May and planned to to attend law school at Drexel University in Philadelphia, her friend Jordyn Spencer said. Josephson’s mother, Marci, posted on Facebook about her daughter’s acceptance, and how she had also been accepted to Rutgers University.
Josephson was a sister of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, according to another member. While at UofSC, she studied abroad in Barcelona and visited Madrid and Paris, according to posts by her mother.
She was originally from Robbinsville, New Jersey, a Mercer County town of about 15,000 people. Mayor Dave Fried said in a statement that Robbinsville was sending “its most heartfelt thoughts, prayers, support and love” to Josephson’s family and friends.
“I do not know the Josephsons personally, but the loss of a child is a devastating event that rattles us all,” Fried said.
A statement from the Robbinsville school district, which Josephson graduated from in 2015, said “Sami” had “an infectious smile and a contagious laugh.”
“Our hearts are heavy with grief and shock as we process the news of the sudden death. On behalf of our board and entire school district, we want to extend our deepest sympathy and love to the Josephson family,” the statement said.
Brothers Pizza, a Robbinsville restaurant where Josephson, her sister and some of her friends worked in high school, posted about Josephson’s death.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Josephson family during this difficult time. Words can’t express how saddened we are to hear of your loss,” the post said.
Josephson last visited her home in Robbinsville on March 24, her mother shared in a Facebook post.
“Robbinsville is a strong and close-knit community and we will continue to find ways to care for and support our students, families, friends, staff and community members as we hold the Josephson family in our hearts,” Robbinsville school district spokesperson Kathie Foster said in a statement.
On Saturday morning, Josephson’s father said in a Facebook post that Samantha “is no longer with us but she will not be forgotten.”
“It is with tremendous sadness and of a broken heart that I post this! I will miss and love my baby girl for the rest of life,” Seymour Josephson wrote. “It is extremely hard to write this and post it but I love her with all my heart. I could continue to write about her but it kills me. I sit here and cry while looking at the picture and write this.”
Marci Josephson is a longtime educator in Mercer County. Sydney, Samantha’s older sister, is a student at the University of Delaware, according to her Facebook page.
A GoFundMe campaign was set up Saturday afternoon to raise money to cover Josephson’s funeral and memorial costs. In the first three hours, more than 200 donors helped raise nearly $6,000.
The University of South Carolina Health Center is offering counseling from 2 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 31, at the Center for Health and Well-Being. The center also operates a 24-hour counseling hotline, which can be reached at 803-777-5223.
Family members could not be reached for comment.