Attorneys to work out key details in high-profile murder of Nashville nurse

Posted at 2:21 PM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 15:21:03-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Will there be a plea deal or will two accused killers go to trial?

Lawyers will work that out in court as they prepare for the high-profile Caitlyn Kaufman murder case. Kaufman died on Interstate 440 after two suspects are accused of shooting her vehicle before she could reach her nursing job at Ascension St. Thomas Hospital.

There is a key hearing before the judge Friday, and key issues still need to be worked out just two weeks before the scheduled trial.

The district attorney is not seeking the death penalty in this case.

But, on the question of a plea deal — that's a big no unless the two defendants simply agree to the maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.

This case shocked the community, and the trial has been a long time coming.

"It's something that is cause for concern and alarming to a lot of residents of Davidson County," said NewsChannel 5 legal analyst Nick Leonardo.

Metro detectives say six rounds were fired from a car into Kaufman's SUV. Kaufman managed to pull to the shoulder of the road, but died from a single gunshot wound. She was left unable to call 911.

An officer found her in the vehicle three hours later.

Who would target a woman seemingly at random?

"People are going to want to know why," Leonardo said.

There was no traffic cam video of the shooting.

But a week later, Jacques Merrell-Odom — a confidential informant at the time — provided the tip that led to the arrests of Devaunte Hill and James Cowan.

Merrell-Odom will be a key witness at the trial.

There may be questions about who allegedly pulled the trigger, but both are charged with her murder.

"They both would be equally culpable for the other person's conduct," said Leonardo.

A gag order remains in place, and both suspects are held without bond.

The motions hearing Friday will set the stage for trial later this month.

Emotions are running high.

At the last hearing, Kaufman's father had to be restrained from going after the suspects in court.

Security will be increased for the trial — a trial that should answer some key questions.

"Did they know the person? Was it road rage? Or was this an accidental discharge playing with a gun, and it went off?" said Leonardo.

Barring any surprises at Friday's hearing there will be no plea deals and no delays — two years after the shooting the trial will finally happen.

Jury selection for the trial is expected to begin on Jan. 23.

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