“They did not know each other. He did not know Caitlyn,” Nashville police homicide detective Chris Dickerson said in the December 11 news conference announcing Hill’s arrest.
Kaufman died on the evening of December 3 when she was struck by one of at least six bullets fired at her vehicle while she drove to work on Interstate 440.
“It shocked Nashville,” Police Chief John Drake said of the shooting.
“BREAKING: Devaunte L. Hill, 21, is in custody for the murder of Nashville nurse Caitlyn Kaufman. MNPD SWAT members arrested him at 6:15 a.m. at his East Nashville apartment. He is being charged with criminal homicide,” Nashville police wrote on Twitter on the morning of December 11.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Nashville Police Say They Have Ballistics & Cell Phone Evidence Against Hill
Drake, speaking in the December 11 news conference, revealed that at 6:15 a.m. that morning, Hill was arrested on suspicion of Kaufman’s murder.
“Hill was taken into custody without incident” at his apartment, the officer said. He was brought to police headquarters where he was interviewed, and he “gave a statement implicating himself in Caitlyn’s murder,” Drake said.
The possibility of additional arrests was not ruled out.
Police said a concerned citizen identified Hill as a suspect and told investigators the whereabouts of the gun used in the crime. The gun was test fired and investigators found “a 100 percent match” with the shell cases found on the road, Drake said.
Hill’s cell phone was in the vicinity the night Kaufman was killed, Drake said in the news conference.
Chris Dickerson, the lead detective, also spoke at the news conference.
He said hundreds of hours of work went into the investigation. “It was a relief to be able to sign the arrest warrant,” he said. He said it was a relief to be able to give the news to Diane Kaufman, Caitlyn’s mother, who is preparing for her daughter’s funeral.
He also confirmed that Hill had “implicated himself in this murder.”
“It was simply a concerned citizen,” Dickerson said of the tipster.
“I can’t elaborate exactly what [Hill] said but he said enough to swear out an arrest warrant,” Dickerson said when asked what Hill specifically said to allegedly implicate himself.
Hill lived in an apartment complex in east Nashville.
2. Hill, Whose Motive Was Not Released, Has a Prior Record, Police Say
Police revealed that Hill has a prior criminal history, although they didn’t detail it. Police did not provide a motive. No criminal history comes up for Hill in Davidson County court records.
Police said in a news conference following the shooting that Kaufman had been traveling to her job in the ICU of a local hospital when she was fatally shot. Her car was shot at least six times. Kaufman was shot between 6:05 p.m. and 6:10 p.m., Nashville police said in the press conference.
The arrest warrant, obtained by WSMV, gives more details.
It says that a Metro Parks Police officer observed Kaufman’s Mazda SUV on the right shoulder of Interstate 440 West near mile marker 2/0. At first the officer thought the vehicle was in a wreck because the driver was slumped over the steering wheel. She was already deceased. The officer then noticed that the car had been shot numerous times with bullets. Authorities found three spent .9 mm cartridge casings on the interstate.
The concerned citizen “identified the defendant, Devaunte Hill, as being the one who shot the nurse on the interstate last week,” according to the affidavit.
Drake said authorities had received 46 Crime Stoppers tips.
Dickerson said the murder was “unusual, especially when it comes to Nashville.”
“She was fatally shot from 6:05 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. We are sure of that. She was killed by a gunshot that entered her left shoulder area,” Dickerson said. “It would have been fatal within 15 seconds. She didn’t have time to get to her cell phone to call 911.”
3. Kaufman’s Emotional Mother Remembers Her Daughter as Compassionate
Diane Kaufman, Caitlyn Kaufman’s mother, thanked the Nashville community in an earlier press conference, during which she became close to tears talking about her daughter. She wasn’t at the Friday press conference, Dickerson said, because she was home in Pennsylvania preparing for her daughter’s funeral.
“Caitlyn’s dream was to live in Nashville from the time she was in high school,” she said, describing her daughter as having a “passion for nursing because she was a very caring individual.” She said that Caitlyn Kaufman meticulously researched nurse residency programs before choosing Nashville. When her residency ended, she was offered a job in the ICU.
“She was a very compassionate young lady and had a heart of gold and was on her way to work to help other people,” said her mother, breaking down. She said she was “pleading as her mother. Please help me find who did this to my daughter.”
During the press conference, Diane Kaufman clutched her daughter’s work badge.
4. Kaufman’s Mother Said She Needed an Arrest to ‘Make Any Sense of This Whatsoever’
Kaufman’s mom spoke previously about how important it was to her to see an arrest made.
“I need closure. I need that to be able to make any sense of this whatsoever,” she said.
Diane Kaufman said her daughter had received nursing awards. “The nursing community is the strongest set of individuals and colleagues that I ever run into. They are supporting my family with great strength in numbers,” she said.
To the killer, she said, “Why? Why did you do that to her? She didn’t deserve it. I can’t wrap my head around it.”
She was on the phone with her daughter before the shooting. “It was our normal everyday conversation. ‘On my way to work, Mom,’ ‘OK, honey.’ She was fine. I had to get off the phone, and when I attempted to call her back there was no answer.”
The nurse was remembered by her grieving mother as “selfless. She was full of life. She lit up a room as soon as she walked into it. She had a contagious laugh, beautiful blue eyes, a heart of gold. Caitlyn was a very loyal person. When you had the opportunity to walk into her small circle, she was loyal to her forever, you were her chosen family. She is sorely missed. I miss talking to her every day.”
5. Donors Raised Thousands of Dollars to Find Kaufman’s Killer
The day before the arrest, Nashville police announced, “A coalition of Nashville business owners and entrepreneurs who wish to remain anonymous just posted a $50,000 reward for info leading to the arrest & prosecution of the person(s) responsible for Caitlyn Kaufman’s murder. The reward total is now $65,000+. Have info? 615-742-7463.”
Nashville police say another anonymous donor has offered a $10,000 reward.
“Caitlyn Kaufman Homicide Update: A local man who wishes to remain publicly anonymous today posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest & conviction of the person(s) responsible for Caitlyn’s murder last Thursday. Have info? Please call 615-742-7463,” police wrote on Twitter.
Drake praised the people who offered the reward money, saying the arrest occurred “after an anonymous group of Nashville businesspeople and entrepreneurs posted a reward. They are dads who have families in Nashville and love Nashville deeply.”