Investigators Determine McNair Slaying to Be Murder-Suicide

Steve McNair's girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, was said to be despondent.
Steve McNair's girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, was said to be despondent. (AP)
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By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 9, 2009

NASHVILLE, July 8 -- Former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was shot four times and killed by his girlfriend Sahel Kazemi, who then used the same gun to shoot herself in the head, according to a Nashville police investigation and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report.

As public pressure mounted to solve Saturday's murder of the onetime star of the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens, Police Chief Ronal W. Serpas, at a news conference, portrayed Kazemi, 20, as despondent and increasingly tormented by a rush of personal problems culminating with the discovery that the married McNair was also seeing another woman.

Police believe sometime after 1:45 a.m. on Saturday, she slipped next to him as he slept on the couch in a downtown condominium he rented, placed a 9mm handgun near his left temple and pulled the trigger with both hands, then she shot him twice in the chest before shooting him in the right temple, most likely with the gun to his head on the final shot.

Then she shot herself in the temple, taking time beforehand to position herself in a way that she would tumble into the quarterback's lap.

While Serpas said that police probably will never know with absolute certainty the sequence of shots, he said several factors, including an examination of the bodies and the direction the bullets traveled, led investigators to that conclusion. Also, the fact McNair was found sitting without any sign he raised his arms to deflect a shot or had gun residue on his hands provided evidence he was asleep when the shots were fired. Gunshot residue was found on Kazemi's left hand.

Authorities did not find any evidence of forced entry in the two-story brick townhouse or signs a third person was inside.

All five of the shell casings match those of the gun Kazemi used.

Detectives believe Kazemi, a waitress at a nearby restaurant, felt her life was falling apart sometime after she began seeing McNair earlier this year. While he bought her a used Cadillac Escalade, she had been unable to sell the car she had been driving, a Kia.

With payments due on the Kia and the Escalade -- for which police think she also had to pay -- her financial situation was increasingly dire. The report also said a female roommate had decided to move to Pittsburgh, meaning Kazemi's rent had increased to nearly $1,000 a month.

In recent days she had discovered McNair was seeing another woman, police said, once watching her leave the condominium and then following her to her home.

On June 29 she told a co-worker that her "personal life was all screwed up."

Three days later, Kazemi was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in downtown Nashville. McNair was in the Escalade with her when she was arrested but went home in a taxi.

Several hours later, around 5 p.m., Kazemi left work and met an acquaintance in the parking lot of the restaurant where she worked who sold her the fully loaded 9mm pistol for $100. She returned to work two hours later and was sent home.

The next day, she told a co-worker "my life is a ball of [expletive], and I should just end it." She left work at 10:07 p.m.. The computer at her home in nearby Hermitage showed activity until around 11. She eventually went to McNair's condominium, though police could not pinpoint the time. When McNair was dropped off at the condominium sometime between 1:30 and 2, the Escalade was already there.

"There is no reason to believe Mr. McNair was murdered by anyone other than Ms. Kazemi," Serpas said.

The chief also said he didn't believe the scene was corrupted by the condominium's co-owner Wayne Neeley and McNair's friend Robert Gaddy even though Neeley discovered the bodies at 12:51 that afternoon and then waited 44 minutes before Gaddy arrived and called 911.

Serpas said surveillance cameras that show much of the outside of the condominium did not show anyone trying to remove anything from the building.

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