NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The state rested its case Friday afternoon in the murder of a Nashville nurse on I-440.
“This was done purposely and intentionally because Ms. Kaufman cut them off,” said Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman.
However, the attorney representing one of the suspects continued to argue that her client acted in a moment of anger.
“This was an incident of road rage,” Assistant Deputy Public Defender Georgia Sims said.
The day was spent discussing cell phone locations, messages and data connecting Devaunte Hill and James Cowan to the crime. The first break in the case that connected Hill and Cowen to Caitlyn’s murder came a week after she was killed. The crucial tip came from the phone of Hill’s childhood friend, Jacques Merrell-Odom.
“You got to remember at this point we had no idea who shot and killed Caitlyn Kaufman,” recalled Detective Chad Gish. “When Detective Dickerson brought this other phone to me, I knew there was a witness that had come forward, Mr. Merrell-Odom.”
Merrell-Odom’s phone showed text messages to Hill about the gun used in the shooting. The phone records also appeared to show his efforts to track down Caitlyn’s mom, Diane.
Merrell-Odom said he came forward with information because he is close with his mom who used to be a nurse.
To support their case that both suspects are guilty of a premeditated murder, the prosecutor brought in expert witnesses to walk the jury through messages, Google searches and other data from multiple phones.
At one point, experts said Hill was searching “Nashville shooting” hours before police had even discovered Caitlyn shot on I-440.
Messages also showed Hill tried to trade the weapon connected to the murder less than 12 hours after Caitlyn’s death.
Two days after Caitlyn was killed, while detectives were on the hunt for any leads, investigators said Hill and Cowan were partying.
Gish said they recovered dozens of images and video from the phone of Cowan’s girlfriend.
“They are at a party having fun, waving guns around, there’s dope, a lot of dope, a lot of drugs are there,” Gish said. “It’s a gang party. There’s actually a cake that says ‘Crips’ and it has gang signs on the cake.”
The evidence was strong enough for Judge Dalton to reject a motion of acquittal from both suspects, which means the arguments from the prosecution was strong enough for the trial to continue.
“From the point where the vehicles merged up until the point where Ms. Kaufman’s vehicle stopped…that was sufficient time to consider whether road rage would be something that would result in premeditation,” the judge said.
Before that point, one of the defense attorneys tried to argue that no evidence was presented that showed his client is guilty.
“Your honor, we’ve heard nothing about Mr. Cowan other than that he was allegedly driving the Cadillac,” said Cowan’s attorney, Ron Munkeboe.
In response, Norman said by helping to position the car next to Caitlyn, Cowan was also responsible for her death.
“The other vehicle would have to be on her left driver side so the passenger could shoot at her, which again indicates that the driver is participating in the shooting,” Norman said.
The judge only allowed one photo from the party to be shown to jurors. The picture showed Cowan and Hill flashing a gun and money, ruling other images as overly prejudicial.
The trial will resume on Saturday, Jan. 28.