Mystery Persists In Tenn. Killings

Possible Murder-suicide, Police Hint

Mcnair Was Shot Four Times, Girlfriend Once

July 06, 2009|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,

The death of former Ravens and Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair this weekend was clearly a homicide, but it could be days before police will be able to classify the death of the woman found in the same condominium with a pistol underneath her body, Nashville, Tenn., authorities said Sunday.

McNair was shot four times - twice in the chest and twice in the head - according to police. Sahel Kazemi, 20, had a single gunshot wound to the side of her head. Police said they have been told that McNair, who is married, was dating Kazemi.

The 36-year-old McNair won a division title and 15 games in two seasons in Baltimore.

Police would not say whether they believe it was a murder-suicide but signaled that they were leaning strongly in that direction.

Asked at a news conference Sunday afternoon if the killer could be loose in Nashville, police spokesman Don Aaron said: "Based on the evidence at the scene and based on what we know from witnesses thus far, you can lean certain ways in the investigation.

"But you can't be close-minded in the investigation," Aaron added. "No possibilities have been ruled out. All scenarios are on the table as we talk to witnesses, as we wait for laboratory results."

Aaron said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was helping Nashville police trace the ownership of the semiautomatic pistol found underneath Kazemi. He said evidence at the scene was "consistent" with the gun, and the condominium showed no sign of forced entry.

One of Kazemi's relatives told The Tennessean of Nashville on Sunday that she doesn't believe the woman killed McNair or herself.

"All she was trying to do was have fun," said Sepideh Salmani, who is Kazemi's niece but was raised as her sister. "Nothing else. I believe there is a third person involved."

Kazemi told Salmani that McNair was getting divorced, The Tennessean reported.

"That's why she was like, 'OK, now you're divorcing. We can date,' " Salmani told the newspaper. "He told her, it was going to be finished, the whole divorce was going to be done, two weeks from yesterday."

The Tennessean said court records show no divorce is pending in Nashville, but McNair's home is for sale.

Aaron, the police spokesman, said McNair's wife, Mechelle, is "very distraught" and that police do not believe she was involved in the shootings.

Fred McNair, Steve McNair's eldest brother, said some family members would likely travel to Nashville today to consult with Mechelle McNair.

"It's still kind of hard to believe," Fred McNair said. "He was the greatest person in the world. He gave back to the community. He loved kids, and he wanted to be a role model to kids."

The bodies were found Saturday afternoon by Wayne Neeley, a longtime friend of McNair's who said he rents the condo with McNair. Police believe McNair and Kazemi died early that morning.

Aaron said Neeley told authorities he found McNair on a sofa and Kazemi on the floor in the living room. Neeley said he called another close friend of McNair's, Robert Gaddy, who contacted police.

Police said they were seeking information from two Nashville bars McNair visited Friday night and early Saturday, the Blue Moon Lagoon and Loser's Bar & Grill. They said a witness saw McNair arrive at the condo between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. Saturday and that Kazemi's vehicle was there.

Keith Norfleet told The Tennessean that he dated Kazemi for four years before they broke up five months ago. He said he was worried about her dating McNair because he is married.

She met McNair while she was a waitress at Dave & Buster's Grand Sports Cafe, Norfleet said. He moved to Nashville with Kazemi from Jacksonville, Fla., where her family lives, Norfleet said. She was raised by a sister. Her mother, a native of Iran, was murdered when Kazemi was 9, Norfleet said.

"She is the sweetest girl, and she did not deserve this," Norfleet told the newspaper. "He was making her believe they were going to be together and everything would be perfect."

Norfleet said they'd been speaking a lot recently and she planned to break it off with McNair. Friends of McNair's were still coming to grips with his death.

"I'm still in shock since hearing the news yesterday. I spent all afternoon and night thinking about my life on and off the field with Pops," said Titans quarterback Vince Young, who eventually took over as starter in Tennessee after McNair was traded to the Ravens. "Since I was a teenager, he was like a father to me. I hear his advice in my head with everything I do. Life will be very different without him."

Young starred at the University of Texas and was selected third overall in the 2006 NFL draft by the Titans, but never played with McNair because of the June 2006 trade to the Ravens.

Nashville police arrested Kazemi on Thursday on a DUI charge while she was driving a 2000 Escalade registered to her and McNair. McNair was in the front passenger seat of the Escalade but was allowed to leave by taxi.

McNair, the third overall pick by the Houston Oilers in the 1995 draft, spent 11 seasons with the franchise - which moved to Tennessee two years later and eventually became the Titans - before closing out a 13-year career with the Ravens in 2007. He took the Titans to the Super Bowl in the 1999 season, was a co-Most Valuable Player with Peyton Manning in 2003 and was selected to the Pro Bowl three times.

After being traded to the Ravens in 2006, McNair led the team to the AFC North title with a 13-3 record but threw a critical interception on the goal line in a 15-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional playoff.

Baltimore Sun reporter Ken Murray and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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