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Jury selection begins in Caitlyn Kaufman murder trial

Caitlyn Kaufman, a 26-year-old Nashville nurse, was fatally shot as she drove down Interstate 440 westbound between Hillsboro Pike and West End Avenue on Dec. 3, 2020, Metro Nashville police said. She is a Butler High School and BC3 graduate. Submitted Photo

A Tennessee judge ruled on pretrial motions Monday, Jan. 23, morning before jury selection began for the trial of two men charged with first-degree murder in the December 2020 shooting death of Butler County native Caitlyn Kaufman.

James Cowan, 29, and Devaunte Hill, 23, are accused of shooting Kaufman in a possible case of road rage on Dec. 3 while she was driving on Interstate 440 in Nashville from her home in Lebanon, Tenn., to work at St. Thomas West Hospital in Nashville, where she was a nurse in the intensive care unit. Kaufman, who is from Chicora, was 26.

In Davidson County Court, Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton ruled Monday that prosecutors can ask Cowan about his previous criminal convictions if he testifies. Court records reveal that he has been convicted of robbery, weapons and drug charges.

In addition, both defendants waived their right to have the jury set any fines they would have to pay if they are convicted, and allowed Dalton to set the fines.

Jury selection began in late morning after motions were addressed and was not completed by late afternoon. The trial is expected to last at least a week.

Members of the Metro Nashville Police Department are expected to present testimony about their investigation into Kaufman’s death.

According to testimony from a hearing in January, a witness and investigators said Kaufman may have cut off the defendants' car in traffic. Investigators said her car was struck by at least six bullets, and her rear driver's side window was shot out. She died at the scene.

Ballistic tests on a gun recovered from a vehicle confirmed that it matched shell casings found on the highway where Kaufman was shot.

Cellphone data was used to track Kaufman's route and speed on the evening of Dec. 3.

That data showed she kept a steady speed of 70 mph until 6:08 p.m., when she began to slow. Detectives believe that coincides with the start of the shooting, according to testimony from the January hearing.

Investigators testified that data pulled from a phone believed to be Hill's showed repeated online searches using terms like “Nashville shooting today.”

Police searched for almost two hours before they discovered Kaufman's body. A Metro Parks officer spotted her Mazda sport utility vehicle around 9 p.m. and believed it was involved in a crash, but found her dead inside the bullet-riddled vehicle.

A GoFundMe page created to help Kaufman’s family with funeral expenses and any other costs has raised $42,000 since December 2020, when it was created.

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