“Somewhere, somebody knows where Dail is or what happened to her.”
-Dan Dinwiddie, Dail’s father
It was the 24th of September 1992. A Thursday. Twenty three year old Dail Dinwiddie lived in Columbia, South Carolina, United States with her parents, Dan and Jean Dinwiddie, and her sixteen year old brother Drew.
Dail had recently just moved back home to Columbia after completing an art history degree at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, VA. She moved home to enroll at the University of South Carolina.
While she waited for it to begin, she spent her time taking art classes and volunteered at the Columbia Museum of Arts. She also babysat for the son of a family friend. The boy she looked after, John Parker, was just eight years old and that day, the 24th of September, Dail was due to collect him from the bus stop after school and walk him home. But that morning, at 6.15am, her father Dan noticed that she wasn't in her bedroom.
Dail Dinwiddie and her brother Drew Dinwiddie
Dan woke up early that morning to let the dog out. The dog slept in Drew's bedroom. But when he walked past Dail's bedroom he saw that her bed had not been slept in. But her lights and radio were on. He asked Jean and Drew if they knew whether Dail had planned to spend the night at a friend's house. They said no. Dail was extremely responsible and if she was ever running late or planned to go anywhere, she always let her parents know. She was also aware that if she ever needed a ride, they would drive to meet her anywhere and at any time. She had not been in touch with them since the night before. They were concerned as they knew she was due to meet John at the bus stop that day and she would not leave him to walk home alone. Jean called John's mother to let her know that Dail was not home and Jean wanted to make sure John's mother would meet him at the bus stop instead.
Dan contacted Dail's friends but they confirmed she was not with them. Dan reported Dail missing to the police at 8.30am that morning.
The night before, the 23rd of September, Dail went to see the band U2 in concert. It was not a concert she had initially planned to attend but a friend asked her to go with him and she accepted. He collected her and drove her to the concert at Williams-Brice Stadium. After the concert, Dail met a few friends at a local bar, Jungle Jim's, at Five Points. At that time, Five Points was a busy area. It remained busy throughout the night as it was a dining and shopping district located just east of Columbia’s city center. At night, the bars were packed with people and it was a favorite drinking destination for students at the nearby University of South Carolina. That night was no different. There were college students and others out partying.
Police discovered that the concert ended around 11.15pm and that was when Dail went to Jungle Jim's to meet her friends. Her friends left Jungle Jim's at 1am without her. When police spoke to her friends, they told police that they believed Dail had already left before them as they couldn't find her at the bar. They said that they believed she either got a ride home or her parents, who lived nearby, collected her. But when police spoke to others at the bar, they discovered that Dail was still there after 1am. She was looking for her friends and told the bouncer that she was stranded. She asked him if he knew where they were. That was around 1.15am. She was last seen, by the same bouncer, at around 1.30am and he told police that he saw her walking north on Harden Street, towards the Green and Harden Streets Intersection. According to the bouncer, she was alone and looked in a hurry.
Dail did not take her purse with her. She left it at the bar.
Thousands of fliers with Dail's picture on it were posted around South Carolina by Dail's family, friends and hundreds of volunteers. Everyone who knew Dail knew she would not have run away. She hated to be alone. They believed that something sinister must have happened to her. But police investigated the route she would have taken home and found nothing. Furthermore, nobody heard anything and there was no evidence of foul play. At that time, 1.30 am, there were still a lot of people out partying. Nobody seemed to know anything.
Due to the circumstances of Dail's disappearance, police believed that she may have been kidnapped. They wondered if it was someone known to her, somebody who may have offered her a ride, a ride that she accepted. That way, it would explain why nobody saw anything unusual or heard anything that night.
Over the years that followed, police looked into a number of different leads and potential suspects. One such person was Reinaldo Javier Ray Rivera. Reinaldo admitted to murdering four women from Georgia and he was a suspect in many more deaths. Reinaldo was from Puerto Rico but lived in Columbia and was a student at the University Of South Carolina in 1992. He was convicted of a police officer's murder in 2004 and sentenced to death. No charges were filed against him in relation to Dail's case. Investigators never found any evidence to link him to Dail's disappearance.
In 2012 with help from State Law Enforcement Division artist Debbie Goff, an age progression photograph of Dail was released. At that time, she would have been forty three years old but there were still no leads in the case.
A few years later, on the 29th of March 2019, a twenty one year old woman, Samantha Josephson, was reported missing from the same area where Dail was last seen. It was a case that was eerily similar to Dail's case. Samantha was last seen outside a Five Points bar in downtown Columbia.
Her roommates reported her missing the next morning as she never made it home the night before. Police checked surveillance footage from the area and saw Samantha getting into a vehicle, a Chevy Impala, outside the bar. There was a crowd outside the bar and it was busy. Samantha was on her phone and alone. Samantha can be seen on the footage skipping towards the car and getting into the back seat. Police discovered that she called an Uber around 2 am to get a ride home when she could not find her friends. But the car she got into was not an Uber.
Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said:
“She had, in fact, summoned an Uber ride. She simply mistakenly got into this car, thinking it was an Uber.”
Police believed that Samantha mistakenly thought the Chevy Impala vehicle was the Uber that she had just ordered. The image of Samantha getting into the vehicle was the last known sighting of her.
Police saw a car driving in the area the same day that Samantha was reported missing that matched the description and appearance of the one seen on the surveillance footage and arrested the driver. The driver was twenty four year old Nathaniel Rowland.
Later that same day, turkey hunters near the town of New Zion, which is around an hour and a half drive from downtown Columbia, found Samantha's body.
The location where her body was found is less than two miles from Nathaniel’s home. He was charged with murder and kidnapping in relation to Samantha's death.
Samantha's parents could not identify her in the morgue due to the extent of her injuries. She was identified by DNA analysis. The Autopsy revealed that Samantha died as a result of multiple sharp force injuries. She was stabbed more than thirty times with a bladed weapon over and over. There were stab wounds from her feet to her face. Samantha suffered numerous wounds evident on multiple parts of her body to include her head, neck, face, upper body, leg and foot.
At Nathaniel's bond hearing, the Court heard that when Nathaniel was arrested, blood found in his car matched Samantha's blood. The child safety locks were engaged and police believed that as soon as Samantha was inside the car, he activated the child safety locks and refused to let her get out. Samantha's footprint was found on the window indicating that she fought for her life and tried to get out of the car.
At the hearing, the Prosecution outlined the evidence they had against Nathaniel.
The Court heard that along with her blood, Samantha's hair was also found in his car. The Prosecution told the Court that they had surveillance video of Nathaniel using Samantha's debit card and attempting to sell her phone. They told the Court that Samantha's blood was found on Nathaniel's clothes and the murder weapon was found at a home that he had visited just prior to his arrest.
The Court also heard there was cell phone evidence that placed Nathaniel's phone and Samantha's phone in the same locations at the same time and that included the location where Samantha's body was found.
Nathaniel's Attorney, Tracy Pinnock,told the Court that Nathaniel is innocent until proven guilty and that they were dealing with a bond hearing, not a Trial. She asked the Court to grant bond as Nathaniel had no prior convictions and she called some character witnesses to speak about the man they believed Nathaniel to be. Nathaniel's basketball coach and older brother told the Court that the Nathaniel they knew was incapable of doing a violent crime.
Nathaniel’s mother, Lorett, said that her son was not the monster that he was being made out to be at the bond hearing:
“There’s no way he could have done this. As a child, he loved everyone. He gets along with everyone. He do what he can for everyone. He’s a very respectful man.”
The Court heard from Samantha's parents at the bond hearing.
Samantha's mother, Marci Josephson, said there were:
“no words to describe the incredible pain he’s caused. 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.”
Marci also told the Court that Nathaniel is sick and evil and said he is a danger to society:
“No words to describe the immense pain his actions have caused our family and friends. He brutally kidnapped and murdered my daughter, my baby. He locked her in the car without any way to escape. He stole my chance of identifying her in the morgue due to the amount of torture he put her through. She was only identified from DNA. He is sick and evil. He’s a danger to society and poses a significant risk to others,. I pray he hears her screams and pictures the violent act he did when he closes his eyes, or has a moment of peace. That’s what I see and hear every day.”
Judge DeAndrea Benjamin denied Nathaniel's bond. His Trial is scheduled for July 2021.
Samantha's family want other women to be safe. Her father, Seymour Josephson, said that he wants others to learn from what happened to his daughter and in particular to be more careful using ride-hailing services:
"I don’t want anyone else to go through this again. What we learned is you guys have to travel together. If there’s two of you, something is less likely to happen. Samantha was by herself. She had absolutely no chance. None.”
They fought to get a bill named after Samantha. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that in part would force ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to deploy technology that would match passengers with drivers before the ride begins. A driver couldn't begin the trip until the passenger and driver verify each others' identities. It would also make it illegal to share ride share signage and requires the Government to examine ride sharing companies background checks. The bill was authored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. and awaits approval in the U.S. Senate.
Uber released a safety report and said they received nearly 6,000 allegations of serious sexual assault nationwide over the course of 2017 and 2018. Both Uber and Lyft officials said they supported the new legislation.
Like Dail, Samantha was a young, bright, loving woman who was simply on a night out. They both had so much to live for. Samantha was set to graduate in May 2019 and planned on attending law school on a scholarship she earned at Drexel University in Philadelphia in the fall. But unlike Samantha's family, Dail's family have yet to find Dail. They still have no idea what happened to her.
In 2020, there were rumors that an arrest was imminent in relation to Dail's case. An Attorney was named and there were rumors that he may be involved in Dail's disappearance due to a claim made by a woman who said that the man had sexually assaulted her and told her she reminded him of Dail. But no charges were brought against him in relation to Dail's case. And as such, Dail's case remains open and unsolved.
If you know anything in relation to Dail’s disappearance, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.
At the time of her disappearance, Dail was 23 years old, 5 feet tall (152 centimetres), and weighed 96 pounds (44 kilograms). She was last seen wearing a forest green pullover shirt, a blue nylon L.L. Bean jacket tied around her waist, faded blue jeans, and tennis shoes.
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