Butler, Pa. (KDKA) – Pictures and videos of Diane Kaufman’s daughter Caitlyn remind her of just how incredible her daughter was.
“She loved life. Her motto was YOLO, you only live once. And she lived life to the fullest. She truly was the light of my life,” she said.
Their tight bond was unbreakable, even when Caitlyn moved from Butler County to Nashville to live her dream, working as an ICU nurse.
“She was a great nurse. She was truly in her element down there,” said Diane.
But on Dec. 3 of last year, everything changed in an instant.
It was just after 6 p.m. Caitlyn and Diane spoke on the phone as she drove on Interstate 440 heading to work at St. Thomas West Hospital. All was well. Until a few hours later, Caitlyn’s friend and co-worker called to say she never showed up.
Diane recalled, “I pulled up my phone and I saw her little dot with her initial in it on 440, just sitting. Well then I became panicked immediately. I said, ‘something is wrong because her car isn’t moving.’”
WATCH: Complete Interview With Diane Kaufman
Then came the call no parent wants. A police chaplain was on the other end.
“He asked me if I was alone and I told him that I was not. He asked me if I was sitting and I said, ‘Please don’t tell me that my daughter is dead.’ And, unfortunately, he did tell me that Caitlyn had been involved in a shooting and it was fatal,” said Diane.
Police found Caitlyn’s body in her SUV on the side of the interstate.
Someone had fired at least six bullets into her vehicle just minutes after Diane hung up with her.
“I do believe that God spared me from having to hear the bullets being shot into my daughter’s car and killing her,” she said.
The case made headlines. Tips poured in. A reward for information reached $65,000. Eight days later, police arrested 21-year-old Devaunte Hill and Hill’s friend, 28-year-old James Cowan. The possible motive? Road rage.
Diane said, “I still can’t make sense of it. They left her to die. I don’t know how you can live with yourself.”
Now, as Diane waits for justice, she’s grateful for an outpouring of support.
“I have received cards from all over the United States with prayers in them, all different types of mementos. It’s as if they all knew her,” she said.
And she clings to cherished memories.
“She just had a wonderful sense of humor and she laughed all of the time and loved making people laugh,” Diane recalled of Caitlyn.
- 26-Year-Old Nurse From Butler County Shot, Killed While Driving To Work In Tennessee
- Nashville Man Arrested In Murder Of Butler County Native And Nurse Caitlyn Kaufman
- Nashville Police Identify 2nd Suspect Wanted For Murder Of Butler Co. Native Caitlyn Kaufman
- Nashville Police Arrest 2nd Suspect Wanted For Murder Of Butler Co. Native Caitlyn Kaufman
- Police Arrest Third Suspect In Nashville In Connection To Caitlyn Kaufman’s Death
As a nurse, Caitlyn also obviously loved taking care of people. And Diane is now determined to make sure her caring and compassionate spirit lives on, even in death.
To honor Caitlyn’s life, Diane helped to start a nursing scholarship at Butler County Community College, where Caitlyn received her nursing degree.
“This is her way of being able to give back without being here to give,” said Diane.
That scholarship has already turned into an endowment, thanks to countless generous donations.
“I am so grateful to everyone for everything. It truly is very humbling and overwhelming,” said Diane.
The first scholarship in Caitlyn’s name at BC3 will be awarded this fall.
In addition, the Tennessee Nurses Foundation will hand out another scholarship in Caitlyn’s name this month. That scholarship will go to a registered nurse at the hospital where Caitlyn worked to help with continuing his or her education.
WATCH: Jennifer Borrasso Reports
“They will always remember Caitlyn because she truly was a remarkable young lady,” said Diane.
And that’s not the only tributes planned in Caitlyn’s honor. Clarion University, where she received her bachelor’s degree, is going to plant a special memorial grove of trees in a national forest in California in Caitlyn’s memory. And the stretch of Interstate 440 in Nashville where she was shot and killed is set to be re-dedicated as “The Caitlyn Kaufman Memorial Mile.”
“For as much as Caitlyn loved Nashville, it loved her right back,” said Diane.
Still, despite everything the Kaufman family is doing to try to keep Caitlyn’s memory alive, the fact remains they’re living with a pain that seems as if it will never heal.
Diane said, “We are struggling. All of us. Caitlyn meant the world to all of us. It’s not just me that hurts. Her brother lost his sister. Her dad lost his daughter. We all feel this tremendous loss. I don’t know if you overcome it. I’ve lost my daughter, but I’ve also lost my friend.”
If you would like to donate to the Caitlyn Kaufman ’18 Legacy Nursing Scholarship at Butler County Community College, you can do so by check or online.
Checks can be made payable to:
BC3 Education Foundation
P.O. Box 1203
Butler, PA 16003-1203
Please write “Caitlyn Kaufman Legacy Scholarship” on the memo line
Visit here. Once on that page, hit the donate button, add the dollar amount, select the debit or credit card and write a note to designate the gift to “Caitlyn Kaufman Legacy Scholarship.”