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Man Gets 25 Years For Nashville Nurse's Fatal Road Rage Shooting
Devaunte Hill told the court he was high on marijuana, cocaine and Xanax when he fired six shots at 26-year-old motorist, Caitlyn Kaufman.
A Tennessee man got the max for killing a COVID-19 nurse who was shot to death while she was driving to work.
Devaunte Hill, 23, was sentenced to 25 years for the 2020 second-degree murder of Nashville nurse Caitlyn Kaufman, 26, according to ABC Nashville affiliate WKRN-TV. The term was handed down by Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton, who’d entered the sentencing order on Wednesday, according to The Tennessean.
“Considering Mr. Hill’s trial testimony and allocution, while court appreciates his words, in observing his demeanor and tone, genuineness behind his words is questionable,” the order stated.
Kaufman died on the scene after her Mazda CX-5 was discovered shortly before 9 p.m. on an I-440 shoulder in Nashville on Dec. 3, 2020. The vehicle was still running, with Kaufman’s foot on the brake, when discovered by a park employee who believed Kaufman’s car was involved in a traffic accident.
Kaufman was reportedly on her way to work the overnight shift at Ascension Saint Thomas West Hospital in Nashville, where she was employed as an ICU nurse.
It was reported that a “concerned citizen’s” tip led to the arrests of Hill and his cousin, James Cowan, the latter of whom was acquitted during the January trial, according to The Tennessean. Hill, a passenger in Cowan’s SUV, confessed to firing six shots at Kaufman, an impulsive reaction to the victim allegedly cutting the pair off on the highway.
Neither suspect knew Kaufman.
Hill testified that he and his cousin were on their way to Cowan’s girlfriend’s house when the incident occurred, according to the Associated Press. He admitted to being under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, and Xanax.
“Cowan hit the brakes, and it startled me,” Hill testified. “I remember picking up the gun and firing the shots, but I couldn’t recall in that moment how many shots I’d fired.”
Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman said Kaufman died after a single bullet entered the driver’s side window and struck Kaufman in the shoulder before ripping through her chest and landing in her right arm, NBC Nashville affiliate WSMV-TV reported.
Hill acknowledged the murder during a March 3 sentencing hearing, per The Tennessean. Kaufman’s mother and sister were present for the defendant’s statement, WKRN-TV reported.
“I know I made an irrational and dumb decision, and I really would just like to apologize to Ms. Kaufman’s family for my stupid behavior,” said Hill. “I’m sorry my irrational decision resulted in the death of your daughter. She didn’t deserve to die.”
Hill testified during the trial that he didn’t realize Kaufman died until hearing about the shooting on his phone, prompting him to use more drugs when “the panic set in,” according to The Tennessean. He then contacted his childhood friend, Jacques Merrell-Odom, to exchange the murder weapon for another firearm.
It would be Merrell-Odom’s tip that led to Hill being arrested at his East Nashville apartment, followed by Cowan’s arrest, which came after a week-long manhunt. Ballistic tests proved Hill’s 9mm gun was a “100% match” to the weapon used to kill Kaufman, according to police. Cell phone records also placed Hill near Kaufman at the time of the murder.
Before Wednesday’s sentencing, defense attorneys argued against what they perceived to be overcharging the men with first-degree murder, arguing there was neither premeditation nor intent. Hill told the court his cousin was merely the driver and had nothing to do with the shooting.
Cowan was acquitted of the charges the same day Hill was found guilty of second-degree murder, according to CBS Nashville affiliate WTVF.
Prosecutors argued for the maximum 25-year sentence for Hill, citing “a previous history of criminal convictions,” according to WKRN-TV. The defense attempted to have the courts factor Hill’s age into the judge’s consideration, to no avail.
“This has truly been my family’s worst nightmare that we’ve been forced to live,” Kaufman’s mother, Diane, said at the March 3 sentencing hearing. “She was my pride and joy; she had beautiful blue eyes and a smile that put you at ease.”
Kaufman was originally from Chicora, Pennsylvania, and moved to Nashville in 2018, according to the Associated Press. Family members said she’d wished to live out her dreams as a nurse living in a big city.