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Police: Retired QB McNair murdered by girlfriend, who then killed herself

  • By Associated Press
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Steve McNair was shot dead in his sleep last weekend by his 20-year-old girlfriend, who was distraught about mounting financial problems and her belief that the former NFL quarterback was seeing someone else, police said Wednesday.

Sahel Kazemi "was spinning out of control" when she shot McNair four times as he dozed on a sofa early Saturday, then turned the gun on herself, Nashville police chief Ronal Serpas said. Interviews with friends revealed that Kazemi was making payments on two cars, her rent was doubling and she suspected the married McNair was having a second affair with another young woman.

Associated Press
Nashville police concluded that former NFL QB Steve McNair (left) was murdered by his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, who then shot and killed herself.

» Police release video of Kazemi's DUI stop

Kazemi told a friend on Friday that "My life is a ball of (expletive) and I should end it," Serpas said.

Police earlier had labeled McNair's death a homicide, but they waited for further tests and the revelations about Kazemi's personal problems before concluding that she pulled the trigger of a 9mm semiautomatic pistol in a condominium that the retired quarterback rented with a friend.

McNair, a Tennessee Titan for most of his 13-year NFL career, met Kazemi six months ago at a restaurant where she was a waitress and his family often ate. Kazemi seemed happy and eager to build a life with McNair, but something went wrong.

"We do know that she was clearly sending a message during the last five to seven days of her life that things were going bad quickly," Serpas said, though there was no indication Kazemi told anyone that she planned to harm McNair.

Serpas said detectives learned that Kazemi recently found out about another young woman she believed McNair was romantically involved with and had even followed that woman home, though she didn't confront her.

Serpas said police believe McNair, 36, was asleep when he was killed because there were no defensive wounds. After shooting McNair in the head, Kazemi apparently shot him twice in the chest before shooting him again in the head and then shooting herself.

Before shooting herself, Kazemi sat next to his body and "tried to stage it so she would fall in his lap," Serpas said. Kazemi did, but her body slid to the floor and ended up at McNair's feet. The gun was found underneath her.

Police are awaiting toxicology reports on both bodies.

Wayne Neeley, the man with whom McNair shared the condo, discovered the bodies and called a friend, Robert Gaddy, who arrived and called 911. Serpas said Neeley didn't call 911 himself because he was in shock.

Gaddy said Wednesday that what he saw in the condo will haunt him for the rest of his life, but he was glad police made clear that his longtime friend didn't suffer.

Kazemi's family told reporters that the woman was so confident McNair was divorcing his wife of 12 years that she was preparing to sell her furniture and move in with him. But Mike Mu, who has worked with McNair's charitable association for years, said the retired quarterback's wife, Mechelle McNair, "didn't know who this girl is." No records of divorce proceedings have surfaced, and the McNairs have four children.

Gaddy defended McNair as a great husband.

"When Mechelle is ready to speak, she will let people know that," Gaddy said. "We can't justify anything that people are starting to find out, but the one thing that we can say, that I know for sure, is that Steve loved his family."

Two days before the shooting, police stopped Kazemi driving the Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle that McNair had given her for her birthday in May. According to an arrest affidavit, Kazemi had bloodshot eyes and alcohol on her breath. She refused a breath test and told an officer "she was not drunk, she was high." She was charged with DUI, and police released video of the arrest Wednesday.

McNair was with Kazemi but wasn't charged. He later paid her bail.

Serpas said that even though both Kazemi's name and McNair's were on the Cadillac's title, she apparently was responsible for making payments. She also was making payments on another car after she couldn't sell it.

Kazemi had no history of violence, but "on the last several days of her life, it's obvious that she made some very poor decisions," Serpas said.

Mechelle McNair hasn't spoken publicly since the shooting of her husband. Bishop Joseph W. Walker III of Mount Zion Baptist Church, which the McNairs have attended since moving to Nashville in 1997, said Wednesday that Mechelle McNair is doing as well as can be expected.

"Her faith is what's sustaining her now," Walker said. "We haven't talked about the circumstances of his death. She is processing it in a private way. It's obviously devastating on so many levels."

A memorial service for Steve McNair is set for Thursday night in Nashville, with the funeral Saturday in his native Mississippi.

The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback was remembered Wednesday at LP Field, where he played much of his career. The Tennessee Titans opened the stadium for fans to watch video highlights of McNair's NFL career and look at photos of the quarterback. There also was a book for fans to write messages that will be given to the McNair family.

McNair was known as "Air McNair" for his passing prowess at Alcorn State in Mississippi. In the 1999 season, he helped lead the Titans to the Super Bowl, where they ended up one yard short of a potential game-tying touchdown on the last play of the game.

McNair spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens before retiring from the NFL last year.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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