A Nashville man has been charged with murder after allegedly gunning down a 26-year-old ICU nurse as she drove to work.
The Metro Nashville Police Department said Devaunte Lewis Hill, 21, had been arrested for the Dec. 3 death of 26-year-old Caitlyn Kaufman. Hill, who faces a criminal homicide charge, was arrested Friday morning by SWAT team members at his East Nashville home after authorities received a tip from a “concerned citizen.” Hill and Kaufman didn’t know each other, police said.
“While it was a relief to be able to sign the arrest warrant, it was an exceptional relief to be able to call [Kaufman’s mother] Diane Kaufman, who is back in Pennsylvania right now,” Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said during a Friday news conference. “Obviously there was a lot of tears, just joy. She said that she was able to get some closure before the funeral.”
Kaufman’s mom also expressed her gratitude, telling The Tennessean that she has “a gamut of emotions right now” but is “so relieved.”
“A part of me is so relieved they got him. I just get chills every time I think about it,” she said.
Authorities say Kaufman was driving to work at St. Thomas West Hospital when shots were fired into her Mazda CX-5 SUV on a Nashville highway. She was due to work a 7 p.m. shift, but a MetroParks officer discovered her body inside the car around 9 p.m.
Kaufman had been shot once in the shoulder and died at the scene, police said.
“She was a dedicated and much loved member of our MICU team and a courageous healthcare hero who was graciously called to serve our patients with compassion and kindness,” Saint Thomas spokeswoman Michelle Heard said in a statement last week.
The murder spurred national outrage and prompted Nashville business owners to pool a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. It was later increased to $66,000.
Drake said a “major break” in the case came on Thursday afternoon after the reward was advertised, when the “concerned citizen” came forward to suggest Hill was the suspect. The citizen, who has not been identified, also gave information about the gun used in the slaying.
Police recovered the gun hours later, which ballistics experts said was a “100 percent match” to three 9mm shell casings found at the scene, according to Drake. He added that electronic experts said Hill’s cell phone was in the vicinity of the highway the night Kaufman was killed.
Drake said Hill admitted his involvement in the crime after he was arrested but he declined to elaborate on the admission, or any possible motive.
After the arrest, Saint Thomas West Hospital issued a statement saying they were “hopeful that justice for Caitlyn’s family will be served.”
“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,” the statement said.
Kaufman is the third Saint Thomas West nurse killed in the last four years. In December 2016, 26-year-old Ashley Brown was strangled and beaten to death—before her body was found in a trash can near Centennial Park. The case is unsolved and a reward for information stands at $100,000. A year later, ICU nurse Tiffany Ferguson, 23, was stabbed to death in her condo. Her killer, Christopher McLawhorn, is serving a life sentence.