Murder suspect’s criminal history highlights issues within juvenile justice system

Crime Tracker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Once Devaunte Hill was arrested on Friday for the murder of Nashville nurse, Caitlyn Kaufman, News 2 learned more of the 21-year-old’s criminal history.

Hill started his juvenile record when at 16-years-old he shot at four members of his family inside their East Nashville apartment. Hill entered a guilty plea for the 2016 incident on four charges of aggravated assault.

Once he had served time with the Department of Children’s Services for that crime by 2017, Hill was brought back to court for a robbery. He entered another guilty plea which would put him in DCS custody until he turned 19.

Now facing murder charges, Nashville prosecutor turned defense attorney Jim Todd said it’s not uncommon for juvenile offenders to commit more violent crimes as adults.

“Certainly, it looks bad when a juvenile has gone through the most extensive form of juvenile punishment rehabilitation and then allegedly committing a very serious crime,” said Todd.

Todd said that has a lot to do with how the law is written and what judges are able to do for rehabilitation of teens.

“The laws that govern juvenile crime, for lack of a better term, are old, antiquated and leave juvenile courts like Judge Calloway in very difficult situations,” Todd said.

Judge Calloway responded to News 2’s request for an interview with a statement addressing the rehabilitation process for youth.

“We are often asked why the law favors treatment and rehabilitation of youth as opposed to punishment and incarceration in the adult prison system.  Research shows the most effective way for youth to become safe and productive members of our community is with evidence-based treatment programs and interventions.”

The sentencing Hill received was standard to the juvenile justice process in Tennessee.

The longest a youth can remain in DCS-JJ custody is until their 19th birthday, as Juvenile Court jurisdiction ends when a youth turns 19 years old.  During a youth’s placement in DCS-JJ custody on an indeterminate sentence, DCS decides where and how the youth will receive treatment services before the youth returns to the community,” Calloway said in a statement.

In order for the juvenile justice system to change Todd says money and resources would need to be provided at a state level.

“You need a facility that can teach a child a trade, keep them long enough to let them develop, and then make sure they’re released safely, sometimes in a different community than where they came from,” said Todd.

Calloway said the court is continuing to research how to make things better.

“Juvenile Court is committed to continuing to follow the best research available in order to improve outcomes for all of the citizens of Nashville.  During a time of tragedy, it is difficult to find solace in the fact that we have had a 48% reduction in juvenile arrests in Nashville since 2013, while Nashville’s population has increased dramatically,” Calloway said in a statement.

Hill has already racked up charges on his adult record over the last two years.

Since getting out at 19, Hill was charged with drug paraphernalia in 2018. And this year he has added assault and driving under a suspended license.

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