NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The star quarterback and the waitress
met six months ago, at a restaurant where she worked and his family
often ate. He was married and 16 years older, but she seemed happy
and eager to build a life with him.
Steve McNair was retired from the NFL and spending time again in
Nashville, where he had spent the best years of his career. Sahel
Kazemi was 20 years old and swept up: He gave her an Escalade for
her birthday and took her on trips to Las Vegas and Key West.
"She just had it made, you know, this guy taking care of
everything," her nephew, Farzin Abdi, said Monday.
They were found dead on the Fourth of July - McNair from two
gunshots each to the head and chest, Kazemi from a single shot.
Kazemi bought the handgun found under her body less than two days
before the shooting, police said. They haven't yet linked the
weapon to the shootings.
On Monday, as the coach of the Tennessee Titans remembered
McNair as the man who put the franchise on the map and police
continued their investigation, more details of their relationship
came to light.
Kazemi appeared confident the pair would last and had introduced
her family to McNair, her nephew said. Abdi quoted her as saying
McNair was divorcing his wife and that it would be finalized soon.
"I think she had already put her stuff up for sale on
Craigslist," Abdi said.
The first sign of trouble was early Thursday morning. Police
stopped Kazemi on Broadway, not far from the honky-tonks where
throaty country singers belt out tales of unfaithful spouses. She
was driving the Escalade SUV that McNair gave her for her birthday
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
McNair was with her but not charged. He later made her bail.
The two then apparently spent some time apart.
According to police spokesman Don Aaron, McNair wasn't with
Kazemi when she bought the semiautomatic pistol that was found at
the scene. Police have declined to release the caliber or the name
of the person who sold it to her.
The next night, McNair was out late with friends, but he and
Kazemi got together soon after at a downtown condo within sight of
the Titans stadium, a pad McNair shared with a friend. A witness
told police the quarterback arrived between 1:30 and 2 a.m. Her car
was already there.
When McNair's roommate, Wayne Neeley, got to the condo at
midday, what he thought he saw was his friend sitting on the couch
and Kazemi lying on the floor. So he went into the kitchen. Then he
saw the blood, police said.
Officers said they found a gun under her body. There were no
signs of forced entry into the condo. Police labeled McNair's death
a homicide Sunday but said they were reviewing every possibility
before labeling Kazemi's.
Mechelle McNair, his wife of 12 years and mother of two of his
four sons born between 1991 and 2004, has been described by police
as very distraught about his death and has not commented on it.
No court records of divorce proceedings have surfaced so far.
The strongest public evidence that the McNairs might have been
estranged is that their 14,000-square-foot Nashville home has been
up for sale recently, listed at $3 million.
Some close to McNair - his brother Fred and his agent Bus Cook -
have said they knew nothing of Kazemi before the shootings. Titans
coach Jeff Fisher said Monday, "The Steve that I knew, if he were
here right now, would want to say, 'Mechelle, I love you."'
Aaron said a solution to the case, now awaiting ballistics and
gun powder residue tests, may not be as neatly resolved as people
"It may be we'll never know exactly why this happened," he
McNair, 36, retired from the NFL last year. He had earned the
respect of fellow players for shaking off defenders and injuries
and the love of fans amazed at how the quarterback kept showing up
for work - and winning.
He was known as Air McNair because of his passing prowess and
was named to four Pro Bowls in 13 NFL seasons. He shared the NFL's
MVP award with Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts in 2003. In
2000, he led the Titans to the Super Bowl, where they fell one yard
short of a last-second touchdown to tie the game.
In retirement, McNair had opened a restaurant, the Gridiron9,
near the Tennessee State University campus. It sells deep-fried hot
dogs for $3.50, Cajun catfish sandwiches for $6.50 and
Southern-style chicken strips for $6.75.
Television news footage showed McNair putting used trays away
inside the eatery after dumping scraps in a trash can.
"He had a sweet spirit," Kimberly Hardy, a 25-year-old McNair
admirer, said outside the restaurant, where mourners have been
gathering and leaving flowers and writing notes on the front
The night before he died, McNair went alone to the Blue Moon
Lagoon Restaurant where he met another couple around 10:30 p.m. and
then left by himself about 1 a.m., said James Weathers, manager of
Weathers said McNair visited there occasionally and "was always
alone, but he'd meet a group of friends." The manager described
McNair as always friendly, "never a big drinker," gracious with
Earlier this year, Kazemi and McNair took trips to Los Angeles,
Las Vegas, Key West, Fla., and Mississippi, said Abdi, the nephew.
McNair had been seen at Kazemi's Nashville apartment two to three
times a week, so often neighbors wondered whether he had moved in.
"They were together all the time unless he was taking his kids
on vacation," Abdi said.
Kazemi was born in Iran but left in 2000, fleeing religious
persecution for their Baha'i faith, Abdi said. They spent 2½ years
in Turkey before moving to Florida. Later Kazemi dropped out of
high school and, at age 17, moved with a boyfriend to Nashville,
where she sometimes worked two or three jobs to support herself.
She liked not depending on anyone for money, and she told her
nephew that McNair admired her independent nature.
"He liked her so much because they would go shopping and stuff
and she would want to spend her own money," Abdi said. "The
reason he said he loves her is because she's not trying to use him
like other girls. She was different from other girls he had been
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)