How the Samantha Josephson death investigation unfolded
For Jean Dinwiddie, the Five Points entertainment district notorious for revelry and mischief for a generation of University of South Carolina students is synonymous with heartache.
For a quarter-century now, her daughter, Dail Dinwiddie, has served as the preeminent symbol in the Midlands and perhaps South Carolina for how a young woman can simply vanish in the night.
Now, the death of another USC student — 21-year-old senior Samantha Josephson, a New Jersey native who over the weekend disappeared from Five Points and was found killed — brings back the cruel marriage of a parent’s grief suspended with desperate hope.
Perhaps, after all these years, Jean hopes for the consolation that her daughter’s case could be resolved, one way or another.
“When you hear something like this, it brings back all the memories,” Dinwiddie told The Greenville News on Monday after seeing Josephson’s case from Five Points play out at first like her daughter’s disappearance in September 1992, though with no finality. “We understand what the family’s going through.”
Each time a young woman disappears or there’s a symbolic milestone, Jean and her husband, Dan, walk the fine line between sympathy for grieving parents and any opportunity to get out word of their daughter’s missing persons case, now 26 years old.
Later this month, Dail would turn 50.
Flash back to September 24, 1992
For anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear in the Midlands at the time, the search for Dinwiddie’s whereabouts and fate was all-encompassing.
This was a time before social media but with the tireless efforts of loved ones and support groups to post Dinwiddie’s distinctive face on telephone poles, high-profile rallies at the Statehouse and a parade of press conferences.
If only cellphones and social media existed back then, Jean said, maybe more could have been uncovered about the early morning Dail was last seen leaving the Five Points bar Jungle Jim’s around 1:30 a.m.
“We didn’t have all this back then,” Jean said. “I hate that we didn’t.”
The night was memorable for anyone attending USC at the time. The iconic band U2 was performing on their “Zootopia” tour, an event ingrained even for those who didn’t make it into Williams-Brice Stadium for the show.
For so long, those in search of Dail have hoped the significance of that night could jog someone’s memory.
Similarly, Josephson was last seen outside a Five Points bar, a little later, just after 2 a.m.
Unlike Dinwiddie, however, there is evidence that Josephson got into a car — a black Chevy Impala that authorities said they linked to a suspect from Clarendon County who on Saturday was arrested in the case, 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland.
Josephson’s body was found in a remote, wooded area that authorities said Rowland was uniquely familiar with, and her blood was found in his black Impala, investigators said.
In the case of Dinwiddie, the only information is that she was last seen leaving Jungle Jim’s bar in a hurry.
The words of mothers
“There are no words to describe the incredible pain he’s caused,” Josephson’s mother, Marci Josephson, said at a bond hearing for Rowland over the weekend in Columbia.
Marci Josephson described the hole left in her heart.
“His actions were senseless, wild and unacceptable,” Josephson told the judge. “Does he even know her name? Samantha Josephson. My daughter’s name was Samantha Josephson. Don’t ever forget her name. Samantha Josephson. Shame on him.”
Jean Dinwiddie said she understands the emptiness.
“It’s been an ongoing thing for us for so many years,” she said. “It’s very unsettling and upsetting.”
Still today, the Dinwiddies receive calls about their daughter’s case. Some are genuine leads — others, especially on a day like April Fool’s when a reporter calls, Jean has to screen for pranks.
The past two weeks, unrelated to Josephson’s case, the Dinwiddies received calls.
“It turns out those phone calls didn’t mean anything,” she said, ‘but you go through the emotional part of it whether it leads to something or not. It just seems like it’s forever. We’re still waiting and still hoping that something will come up.”