Men charged with murdering nurse in 2020 back in court for motion hearing

WSMV's Tosin Fakile has more on a court hearing for suspects in a nurse's murder.
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 9:07 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2022 at 5:03 AM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A motion hearing continued on Thursday in the case of the murder of Ascension Saint Thomas nurse Caitlyn Kaufman.

On Thursday the questioning centered around how investigators find data that is collected when a crash happens.

Kaufman’s family was in court for Thursday’s hearing for a second day as Davaunte Hill and James Cowan, the men accused of killing their daughter, sat just a few feet away.

On Thursday, the defense tried to prove Kaufman crashed but prosecutors said there wasn’t anything to prove that point. Only one witness was called to the stand, Metro Nashville Police Department Lt. James Williams, a crash expert, and commander over the Traffic Division Investigation section.

Time was spent with the defense asking about the systems that collect data when there’s a crash.

“Is it accurate to say that if there is not an airbag deployment, there may or may not be data which the vehicle collected?” defense attorney Jason Chaffin asked.

“Correct,” Williams replied.

“Nobody asked you to review, to do an extraction for the EDR/CDR in this particular case related to the 2020 Mazda we spoke about?” Chaffin asked.

“No sir,” Williams replied.

The state also asked the crash expert question in an effort to continue to drive home the point a crash didn’t happen.

“In this particular case, there was no vehicle crash and so whether or not that data is going to be on the that system is very unknown. Is that right?” Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman asked.

“That’s correct,” Williams replied.

“Is there any instance in which a homicide detective would submit a request to you for that data? Is that something that would happen when there’s no crash involved whatsoever?” Norman asked.

“No,” Williams replied.

The defense also talked about issuing a subpoena to Crime Stoppers asking for documentation for payment to the witness that called in and provided information in this case.

“That combined with the address location which seems to put this organization squarely in the police department physical space now has raised questions for us for the connection between Crime Stoppers and the police department which is why I’m now asking for the memorandum of understanding,” one of the defense attorneys said.

“What they’re asking for in this subpoena goes well beyond that. They want documentation of donation source and data, correspondence, why would any of that be relevant” Norman said.

On Tuesday, Hill and Cowan were being seated when Kaufman’s father shouted and rushed toward them. He was restrained by courtroom security and escorted out into the hallway. This was the first time he was face-to-face with his daughter’s accused killers.

Kaufman was a nurse at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital at the time and both men encountered her while driving on the interstate on December 3, 2020. A witness testified that Kaufman cut them off and the shooting was the result of road rage.

Hill was arrested six days after the shooting and investigators took Cowan into custody more than a month later. Metro Police said they recovered two pistols from Cowan’s car after his arrest.

Hill appeared in April to request a release on bond after spending 15 months in prison. His father, Freddie Smith Jr., testified before the court in his son’s defense, but bail was denied based on Hill’s violent criminal record.

Both Hill and Cowan are scheduled for a jury trial on January 23, 2023, at 9 a.m.