NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The sentencing hearing for Devaunte Hill, the man convicted of shooting and killing Nashville nurse Caitlyn Kaufman on Interstate 440 in December 2020, got underway Friday morning.
Kaufman was on her way to work as an ICU nurse at Ascension Saint Thomas West when she was shot while driving on I-440. She is believed to have died within minutes of the shooting.
The 26-year-old’s body was found inside her SUV two hours later, with the vehicle still running and her foot on the brake, by a Metro Parks employee.
A tip from a citizen not only led to the arrest of 23-year-old Hill just over a week after Kaufman’s death, but also the arrest of Hill’s 30-year-old cousin, James Cowan.
More than two years after the deadly shooting, Hill was found guilty of second-degree murder while Cowan was found not guilty.
Hill, who confessed to pulling the trigger during the trial, said he wasn’t thinking clearly. While he testified that he remembers shooting the gun, he said most of the details are a blur.
According to Hill, he was the passenger in the car with his cousin, heading to pick up Cowan’s girlfriend, when Kaufman cut them off. He testified that he grabbed the gun in his lap and started firing out the window.
Hill admitted to trading that gun with a friend, as well as lying to the police in order to protect his cousin.
Following his Jan. 31 conviction, Hill faces 15 to 25 years in prison.
During Hill’s sentencing hearing on Friday, March 3, Kaufman’s mother, Diane, was the first one called to the stand.
Diane started crying as she described a series of photos of her daughter, getting especially emotional as a picture from the day of Kaufman’s nursing school graduation was shown. That photo featured Kaufman’s brother, who Diane said hasn’t been able to attend any of the hearings because it’s just too hard for him.
Kaufman’s father also cried as Diane read her victim impact statement, saying Kaufman was “an apple to her dad’s eye.”
According to Diane, her faith gets her family through this tragedy. She also wears a necklace with Kaufman’s ashes and fingerprint every day.
Diane not only addressed Hill during the hearing, telling him she doesn’t know if she will ever forgive him, but she also said the fact that Cowan was acquitted “makes me sick.” The mother said there was a time when she had empathy for the two men, but not after sitting through the trial and seeing their lack of remorse.
A victim impact statement from Kaufman’s uncle was also read to the court before the state concluded their proof.
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Then, Hill’s sister, Fredricka Williams, was called to the stand.
Williams told the court she and Hill grew up together, but their father was in and out of jail the majority of their childhood. Their mother was also incarcerated, so their grandmother was reportedly the most consistent adult figure in Hill’s life.
In addition, Williams said Hill was attacked by a pack of dogs when he was little, as well as shot by a friend in the thigh as a teen.
According to Williams, Hill had anger issues that worsened after he got shot, but he never received counseling.
Williams also described the day Hill shot his grandmother in the abdomen, his 12-year-old sister in the arm, and his 3-year-old nephew in the arm because Hill reportedly didn’t want to go to school when he was 16. However, she said their family dynamic didn’t really change after that incident.
Hill’s sister told the court she knew he was in a gang, but she didn’t know which one or much else about it.
Williams testified that Hill has two children, ages 2 and 4, one of whom is named after him.
After that, the court played a video showing Hill’s grandmother after he shot her, with her saying several times that he’s still her grandson and she still loves him. Another video showed Hill playing with his son, which not only made Hill smile, but also Kaufman’s mother.
The next person to take the stand was Hill, who said, “I know I made an irrational and dumb decision and I would really like to apologize to the Kaufman family.”
Kaufman’s parents had tears in their eyes as Hill apologized.
Meanwhile, public defender Georgia Sims said Friday’s proceedings are legally required to focus on Hill and why his life matters.
The judge said she’ll be issuing a written order, giving each side until Friday, March 10 to submit a written argument.
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This is a developing story. WKRN News 2 will continue to update this article as new information becomes available.