Caitlyn Kaufman case bound over to grand jury; Witness testifies he heard suspect confess to killing nurse

Posted at 9:05 AM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 21:46:53-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Two suspects charged in the killing of Nashville nurse Caitlyn Kaufman are appearing in court today, where one witness testified that he heard one of the suspects confess to killing Kaufman. The same witness said the suspect claimed they fired on her because she may have cut them off on Interstate 440.

Both 21-year-old Devaunte Hill and 28-year-old James Cowan have been charged with criminal homicide in the case. Judge Melissa Blackburn ordered that the case be bound over to a grand jury. She also denied Hill's bond again, saying that he is a danger to the citizens of Davidson County.

The state called one witness who said he traded weapons with Hill a few days after Kaufman was killed. The judge asked NewsChannel 5 and other media outlets not to share the witness' name or face due to ongoing threats against him.

He said he heard Hill confess to killing her. Metro Nashville Police Detective Chris Dickerson also testified that Hill later admitted to being on 440 near the area at the time of the shooting.

The witness went on to say that he traded his pistol for Hill's Springfield 9 mm. Later that night, the witness said Hill went into his car and said," I f***ed up," and showed a news article to the witness, detailing Kaufman's murder.

The witness said he told his mother the next morning, and she encouraged him to come forward with the information. A few days after that, the witness tried to message Kaufman's mother on social media. When he didn't hear back, he went to Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital to share his account.

St. Thomas then contacted Metro Nashville police, who took the witness to the police department to ask him questions. While at police headquarters, the witness said he messaged Hill on Instagram, and in that message, he confirmed that the witness was not involved in the crime.

The witness also said that Hill told him that they opened fire on Kaufman because she may have cut off their car on I-440 that night. Hill also told police that Kaufman's car cut them off and that the shooter opened fire as a result, according to Det. Dickerson.

The witness eventually produced the murder weapon, a Springfield 9 mm, to Metro Police. It was a 100% ballistic match to the gun used, which prompted police to issue the arrest warrant for Hill.

Meanwhile, the defense is trying to show that the witness had a bias to protect himself from prosecution, and/or was going after reward money.

Metro Nashville Police Detective Chad Gish also took the stand. He explained how he was able to use applications in Kaufman's phone to track her movements and piece together her timeline of the day she was murdered. The phone was also used to narrow down a suspect search. He said nothing in her phone pointed to any potential suspects.

Detective Gish said Gish that between cell phone data and his own driving tests he was able to determine that Kaufman was likely driving around 73 mph - nothing out of the ordinary for I-440.

The first witness to testify was a victim of Hill. She said that Hill, when an employee at a Berry Hill restaurant, attacked her by slamming her head into a metal post in May of 2019. The witness said she had an inside joke with another employee and quoted a lyric that Hill misinterpreted as an insult.

She said she spent several days at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital Midtown after the attack. She described the pain as nine out of 10.

Kaufman, an ICU nurse, was on her way to work at St. Thomas West Hospital on Dec. 3 when she was shot and killed on Interstate 440.

Caitlyn Kaufman

Police arrested Hill in December and said he implicated himself in the killing during a consented interview with homicide detectives. Cowan was arrested about a month later and is accused of being with Hill when shots were fired into Kaufman's vehicle, killing her.

Devaunte Hill and James Cowan

Cowan is also facing federal drug and gun charges. His girlfriend, 21-year-old Dimeneshia Carter, has been charged with harboring a fugitive.

Reporter Chris Davis is in the courtroom and will have updates throughout the day. Check back for more.

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'She didn't deserve it.' Nurse's mother asks for help from community to find her daughter's killer

Family mourns loss of Nashville nurse killed on her way to work