The family of slain Saint Thomas West intensive care unit nurse Caitlyn Marie Kaufman, 26, laid her body to rest Dec. 5 in Pennsylvania, one day after the arrest of a suspect police believe killed Kaufman in East Nashville.
According to Metro Nashville police Chief John Drake, SWAT officers charged Devaunte L. Hill, 21, in connection with the Dec. 3 killing of Kaufman as she drove to work on Interstate 440. Kaufman was a Lebanon resident and Chicora, Pennsylvania native.
“Detectives from our homicide unit have worked around the clock pursuing the more than 50 CrimeStoppers tips and other leads in this case,” Drake said. “They were joined by scientists at our crime laboratory, MNPD electronics experts and our partners at the FBI, ATF and TBI. On behalf of Nashville, I am grateful to all of these men and women.”
Police said Hill was arrested Dec. 4 at about 6:15 a.m. at his apartment in the Berkshire Place complex on Porter Road in East Nashville.
"Hill was brought into police headquarters, where he was interviewed by homicide unit detectives Chris Dickerson and Jefferson Hughes, and without going into detail, which I cannot do at this point, he gave a statement implicating himself in Caitlyn's murder," Drake said during a news conference.
Police said the two did not know each other, and additional arrests are possible. Police charged Hill with criminal homicide.
In an affidavit signed my Dickerson, Kaufman was shot and killed Dec. 3 between 6:05-6:10 p.m. on I-440.
“A Metro parks police officer observed a Mazda SUV on the right shoulder of I-440 west near mile marker 2/0,” according to the affidavit. “The parks officer thought that the vehicle may have been involved in a wreck, and the driver was slumped over. The parks officer was able to get over to assist the driver. The officer then observed that the driver of the vehicle, a female, was slumped over the steering wheel. The parks officer also observed that the vehicle was struck numerous times with bullets. Once the female was extracted from the vehicle, the parks officer attempted to render medical aid until Nashville fire and medics arrived; however, the female was subsequently pronounced deceased.”
A major break in the case came within an hour of the announcement that an anonymous group of Nashville business owners and entrepreneurs increased the reward for information by $50,000 to a sum of $65,000, according to police. A concerned citizen came forward Dec. 3 to identify Hill as a suspect and also gave information as to where the .9 mm pistol used in the murder could be found.
According to police, detectives found the gun Dec. 3, and crime lab scientists conducted an immediate analysis of the pistol. Police said the gun was test fired at the lab.
“Scientists reported a 100% match to the three .9 mm shell casings that were recovered on the shoulder of I-440 the night Caitlyn was killed,” said police.
In addition, Metro police electronics experts were able to identify Hill’s cellphone number and provider. They determined Hill’s phone was in the vicinity on the night Kaufman was killed.
“While it was a relief to be able to sign the arrest warrant naming Hill at 3:37 this morning, it was an exceptional relief to be able to call Caitlyn’s mother, Diane, in Pennsylvania this morning to tell her that an arrest had been made,” said lead Detective Chris Dickerson. “Throughout this investigation, we have felt the support of all of Nashville, and the strong support of the Kaufman family.”
Dickerson said there were “lots of tears” when he spoke to Diane Kaufman.
Prior to the arrest, Diane Kaufman came to Nashville. During a press conference before she returned to Pennsylvania to make funeral arrangements, she spoke through her tears.
“Why did you that to her?” she said. “She didn’t deserve it. I don’t, I can’t, I can’t wrap my head around it,” said Diane Kaufman. “I don’t know how someone can take another person’s life like that.”
The grieving mother said her daughter was special.
“She was a very compassionate young lady, had a heart of gold, and was on her way to work to help people,” Diane Kaufman said. “I need closure, I need that to be able to make any sense of this whatsoever.”
She also said it was her daughter’s dream to come to Nashville to fulfill her nursing career.
Police said more than six shots were fired at Kaufman’s car during the shooting. Doctors said a bullet hit the young nurse in the shoulder and killed her instantly.
The hospital where Caitlyn Kaufman worked sent out a statement after the arrest was announced.
“Ascension Saint Thomas continues mourning the loss of Caitlyn Kaufman's tragic passing and continues supporting the efforts of law enforcement officials working to seek justice through their investigation,” the statement said. “We are hopeful that justice for Caitlyn's family will be served following the announcement that a suspect has been arrested as part of the ongoing investigation.
“Those who knew Caitlyn Kaufman witnessed the overwhelming compassion and kindness she showed for each person she cared for and worked alongside during her two years in Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West’s ICU.”
Hill was booked in at the Downtown Detention Center on a charge of criminal homicide. He remained without bond pending a hearing.