NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Metro Police announced an arrest has been made in the murder of Saint Thomas West nurse Caitlyn Kaufman.
Police said Devaunte Lewis Hill was arrested on Friday morning by SWAT team members at 6:15 a.m. at Berkshire Place complex on Porter Road in East Nashville. He is being charged with criminal homicide.
Hill, 21, admitted to investigators after his arrest his involvement in the murder.
"Hill was brought into police headquarters where he was interviewed by Homicide unit detectives Chris Dickerson and Jefferson Hughes, and without going into detail, which I cannot do at this point, he gave a statement implicating himself in Caitlyn's murder," Police Chief John Drake said during a news conference.
Dickerson spoke with Diane Kaufman, Caitlyn's mom, this morning. Kaufman returned to Pennsylvania after being in Nashville earlier in the week. A private funeral service will be held Saturday for Caitlyn Kaufman in Pennsylvania.
BREAKING: Devaunte L. Hill, 21, is in custody for the murder of Nashville nurse Caitlyn Kaufman. MNPD SWAT members arrested him at 6:15 a.m. at his East Nashville apartment. He is being charged with criminal homicide. pic.twitter.com/lJ6LMHy8v7— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) December 11, 2020
"While it was a relief to be able to sign the arrest warrant, it was an exceptional relief to be able to call Diane Kaufman, who is back in Pennsylvania right now," Dickerson said. "Obviously there was a lot of tears, just joy. She said that she was able to get some closure before the funeral."
Diane Kaufman returned to her home in Pennsylvania on Thursday.
Police said a "concerned citizen" came forward on Thursday and told police about Hill and told them where to find the gun used in the shooting. The tip came just after an announcement the reward for information had increased to $65,000.
"A major break came in this case within an hour of the announcement that an anonymous group of Nashville business men and entrepreneurs posted a $50,000 reward," Drake said. "A concerned citizen came forward Thursday afternoon and identified Hill as a suspect. That concerned citizen also provided information about the whereabouts of the 9mm used in the murder."
Police found three shell casings on the interstate at the shooting scene. Police said there was a 100% match to the 9mm handgun the citizen said Hill had. Police also used his cell phone location, which placed him in the area of the crime at the exact time on Thursday.
"Our detectives located the gun Thursday night. We called in our ballistics experts overnight at the crime laboratory to do an immediate analysis," Drake said. "That gun was test fired and we have a 100% match of the three 9mm casings found at the corner of the road at I-440 the night Caitlyn was killed."
Police said Hill and Kaufman did not know each other.
Kaufman, a nurse at Saint Thomas West Hospital, was shot and killed on Dec. 3 between 6:05 and 6:10 p.m. on Interstate 440 while she was on her way to work.
A Metro Parks Police officer saw Kaufman's car on the right shoulder of I-440. He thought the car may have been involved in a wreck and the driver was slumped over.
Ascension Saint Thomas released a statement after learning of Hill's arrest:
Ascension Saint Thomas continues mourning the loss of Caitlyn Kaufman's tragic passing and continues supporting the efforts of law enforcement officials working to seek justice through their investigation. We are hopeful that justice for Caitlyn's family will be served following the announcement that a suspect has been arrested as part of the ongoing investigation.
Those who knew Caitlyn Kaufman witnessed the overwhelming compassion and kindness she showed for each person she cared for and worked alongside during her two years in Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West’s ICU.
As we continue to care for our community during this COVID pandemic the most important way to support our nurses and other frontline caregivers is by wearing a mask, washing your hands as well as social distancing.
Police announced Thursday the reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of suspects in Kaufman's murder is now $65,000. A coalition of Nashville business owners and entrepreneurs added $50,000 to the reward fund on Thursday.
"I understand that many of those persons involved in the reward are dads who have families in Nashville and love Nashville deeply, and I think them for their contribution," Drake said.
Hill had a criminal record prior to Friday's arrest.
He has been charged previously on a charge of unlawful use of drug paraphernalia, which was later released, assault and driving on a suspended license.
Hill was accused of assaulting a coworker in May 2019 at The Sutler in Melrose. The victim was walking around the back line where the cooks work saying a joke to another employee. When the victim walked behind Hill telling the joke, not intended toward him, he grabbed the victim and slammed the victim's head on a metal wall in the kitchen. The victim was taken to the hospital with neck and head injuries.
Hill is being held without bond. He is expected to appear in Davidson County General Sessions Court for a review hearing on Tuesday morning on the criminal homicide charge.