COLUMBIA — Around South Carolina's capital city on Sunday, reminders of the kidnapping and killing of a 21-year-old University of South Carolina student punctuated the spring weekend.

Bouquets of flowers were laid at a makeshift memorial at Five Points' landmark fountain above burned-out tea candles, near where Samantha Josephson was abducted after getting into a car she mistakenly thought was her Uber ride at the end of a night out with friends at a bar.

USC students wrestled with one of the university’s darkest episodes in recent memory — one still marked by lingering questions about what happened. They also grew warier of routines they had taken for granted, like hailing a ride home late at night.

Heather Hunter, a freshman studying music education, said she’d always been careful about checking drivers’ names and calling them first so she could watch them pick up the phone.

"It could happen to me," Hunter said, wondering aloud what could happen if she slipped up. "That could be me."

During a vigil held at USC on Sunday night, school President Harris Pastides sent a message pledging to spend the week honoring Josephson and offering safety training with students about rideshares.

Seymour Josephson, the slain student's father, issued a call to action before hundreds of the university’s students gathered near its Greek Village. He implored students to travel in groups at night and for ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to go further to make sure passengers get in the right cars.

He said his daughter tried to hop into another vehicle she thought was her Uber ride before getting into the car that took her out of Five Points.

"It’s really about taking that on and what they can do to change and to help keep you guys safe, to keep the public safe," Seymour Josephson said.

Uber, the service Josephson was using early Friday, did not respond to a request for comment on her father’s call.

"She had absolutely no chance. None," he said. "If there’s somebody else in the car, there’s actually a chance."

He said his daughter put down a deposit at Drexel University’s law school days before she went missing. Her parents had planned to surprise her with a visit to Columbia over the weekend. 

Samantha Josephson's Alpha Gamma Delta sorority sisters remembered a caring friend with a penchant for silliness — someone who was ready with a meal for friends after a day out and wished the rapper Lil Wayne a Merry Christmas every year, hoping for a response.

“You could feel the compassion she had for her friends,” one sorority sister told the crowd.

They remembered the vibrant social life reflected in the crowd gathered on an intramural soccer field. The scores of mourners showed “how many people she positively influenced,” her boyfriend said, fighting back tears..

Students then lit candles and held a moment of silence. A rabbi offered a prayer in Hebrew at the end of the vigil.

Josephson's family traveled from the family's home in New Jersey to Columbia where her mother spoke at a Sunday court hearing, saying the accused killer has "taken away a piece of our heart, soul, and life."

"I cannot fathom how someone could randomly select a person, a beautiful girl, and steal her life away," Marci Josephson said in court, according to Columbia television station WLTX. "It sickens us to think that his face was the last thing my baby girl saw on this earth. Does he even know her name?

"His selfish, unspeakable, and violent actions have created a hole in the universe, a hole in our universe, and we see the unimaginable ripple effect on our world."

Nathaniel Rowland, the 24-year-old Clarendon County man charged with murder and kidnapping, was not in the courtroom after waiving his right to appear. 

The Josephsons will bury their daughter in New Jersey on Wednesday.

Rowland's legal history in South Carolina does not include previous accusations of violence, according to state court records.

He has a number of traffic violations in Clarendon, Sumter and Lexington counties, mostly for not wearing a seat belt, according to court records. He was charged with having an open container of alcohol in February in Sumter County.

The most serious previous charge against Rowland was obtaining a signature or property under false pretenses in a complaint involving a Columbia pawnshop. The case is pending.

Nathaniel David Rowland (copy)

Nathaniel David Rowland. Columbia Police Department/Provided

Now Rowland sits in a Richland County jail accused of a crime that has shocked the nation.

Rowland was arrested around early Saturday morning after police saw a car near the bar-filled Five Points neighborhood popular with college students that matched the description of the one Josephson hopped into before disappearing about 24 hours earlier.

Josephson's body was found Friday evening by turkey hunters more than 60 miles east of Columbia in a remote wooded area of Clarendon County near where near where Rowland lived recently, authorities said.

Samantha Josephson (copy)

Samantha Josephson. Columbia Police Department/Provided

Josephson suffered wounds from her head to her feet, according to an arrest warrant from the State Law Enforcement Division. The warrant did not specify how she was wounded.

Josephson's cellphone was recovered from the car and lab tests determined that blood found in the car matched the USC student, according to the warrant. The car's child-safety door and window locks were engaged to prevent someone from escaping the car, the warrant said.

A passenger was in Rowland’s car when he ran from police. She was an acquaintance of Rowland and is cooperating with police, said Jennifer Timmons, a Columbia police spokeswoman.

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Columbia Bureau Chief

Andy Shain runs The Post and Courier's team based in South Carolina's capital city. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.

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