An arrest has led to homicide charges in the fatal freeway shooting of a nurse who was on her way to work at a Nashville hospital, where her family said she was treating COVID-19 patients.
The victim, 26-year-old Caitlyn Marie Kaufman, did not know the suspect, Devaunte L. Hill, 21, police said at a news conference Friday.
Kaufman was behind the wheel of her Mazda CX-5 SUV driving to her 7 p.m. shift at St. Thomas West Hospital Dec. 3 when she was shot, police said in an earlier press release. An officer who spotted the still-running vehicle on the shoulder of I-440 stopped shortly before 9 p.m. to check on it, reportedly thinking it was a single-car crash, and found Kaufman inside.
She died at the scene.
"I can't speak to if it was road rage or not," Detective Chris Dickson told reporters Friday. "That's all part of the investigation."
But he said that, after Hill consented to an interview with investigators, he allegedly "did implicate himself in Caitlyn's murder."
Kaufman's mother, Diane, responded to the arrest with "a lot of tears, just joy," said Dickson. "She said she was able to get some closure before the funeral. She expressed her gratitude to everybody that helped out."
Police credited Thursday's announcement of a $50,000 reward for information put up by an anonymous group of Nashville business owners and entrepreneurs. Within hours, according to a police news release, a "concerned citizen" identified Hill and also steered police to the whereabouts of the 9 millimeter pistol allegedly used in the shooting.
After detectives found the gun Thursday night, "crime lab scientists were called in during the night to do an immediate analysis," and "reported a 100 percent match to the three 9 millimeter shell casings that were recovered on the shoulder of I-440 the night Caitlyn was killed," according to the statement.
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Experts further identified the suspect's cell phone number and determined the phone was allegedly in the vicinity of the shooting location on the night Kaufman was killed.
Kaufman, who was originally from Chicora, Pennsylvania, had been working at St. Thomas West Hospital since December 2018, according to her Facebook profile.
“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,” Dickson said.
Kaufman is to be buried Saturday in Pennsylvania.
Hill was booked into the Downtown Detention Center on a charge of criminal homicide and is held without bond, pending a hearing. An attorney who might speak for him was not immediately identified.
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