Former NFL Quarterback Slain in Murder-Suicide
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair was found dead Saturday in an apparent murder-suicide with a young woman he met at a local restaurant and have been dating for at least a few months.
McNair, the hometown hero who did extensive charity work in Nashville, died of several gunshots and was found on the sofa, police said. Sahel Kazemi, 20, was found alongside him in a Nashville condo he rented. She had a single gunshot wound to her head; a pistol was found near her body.
Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said police were leaning toward certain scenarios based on the evidence, but they hadn't ruled anything out. Still, they were not actively looking for suspects Saturday night.
"The medical examiner will be conducting autopsies tomorrow," Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said. "We expect to make additional conclusions after the autopsy process."
Wayne Neely, a longtime friend of McNair's who also rents a condominium with the former Tennesee Titans quarterback, arrived Saturday to find the bodies inside the condo, said Aaron.
Though much of the attention was on the condo crime scene, police also swarmed the Cherry Creek apartment complex in Hermitage. They were questioning neighbors who said they often saw McNair visiting Kazemi. Sometimes, neighbors said, she would arrive home in a limousine in the early morning hours. She showed up with a new black car she said was a gift from her boyfriend.
She was arrested in that car, a black Cadillac Escalade registered to she and McNair, just two days before the deaths. She was charged with driving under the influence and refusing to take a breath test.
Earlier Saturday, a black Escalade was towed from the condominium complex where McNair and Kazemi were found dead.
It is not clear whether this is the same vehicle involved in the DUI arrest.
Keith Norfleet, Kazemi's boyfriend for four years before they broke up five months ago, said he came to pick up the car for Kazemi.
Norfleet said McNair was in the car with her when the stop occurred, a fact that was not in the police affadavit but was confirmed by police Saturday night. McNair later bailed Kazemi out, according to bail bondsmen.
Norfleet said she told him she was seeing McNair, who she met while working as a waitress at Dave & Busters. He was worried about her dating a married man and hopeful they'd get back together. They had been living together for four years, since they moved from her family's home in Jacksonville, Fla., to Nashville.
"She is the sweetest girl, and she did not deserve this," Norfleet said upon learning of her death. "He was making her believe they were going to be together, and everything would be perfect."
McNair is survived by wife, Mechelle McNair, and four sons, Junior, Steven, Tyler and Trenton.
McNair played 13 seasons in the NFL and led the Titans within a yard of forcing overtime in the 2000 Super Bowl, which they lost 23-16 to the St. Louis Rams. He also played for the Baltimore Ravens before retiring in April 2008.
"We don't know the details, but it is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the families involved," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.
"We are saddened and shocked to hear the news of Steve McNair's passing today," Titans owner Bud Adams said in a statement. "He was one of the finest players to play for our organization and one of the most beloved players by our fans. He played with unquestioned heart and leadership and led us to places that we had never reached, including our only Super Bowl."
About 50 people crowded just beyond police tape outside the complex in the upscale Rutledge Hill neighborhood, some wearing Titans hats. The condominium is located within walking distance of an area filled with restaurants and nightspots, just a few blocks from the Cumberland River and within view of the Titans' stadium.
Chad Daniels, who lives near the Second Avenue South condominium where the shooting took place, came stopped by to bring flowers and share his grief.
"I think all of Nashville is pretty heartbroken over this," Daniels said, near tears. "He built the franchise. He built the Titans organization."
Shaheed Rahman, who said he was McNair's friend and sometimes driver, spoke to McNair two weeks ago, just before the opening of his new restaurant. He said the former quarterback was in good spirits and loved being in Nashville.
"We're just trying to put the pieces together to find out what happened," Rahman said. "To those of us who knew him, this is not a joyous moment. We don't want to remember McNair. We want him to still be here."
McNair began his career in 1995 with the Houston Oilers, who eventually became the Titans, and finished with 31,304 yards passing and 174 touchdowns. McNair played with pain for several years, and the injuries ultimately forced him to retire.
The highlight of his playing time might have been a five-game stretch at the end of the 2002 season when he was so banged up he couldn't practice. McNair started all five games and won them all, leading the Titans to an 11-5 finish and a berth in the AFC championship game for the second time in four seasons.
McNair played all 16 games in 2006, his first season in Baltimore, and guided the Ravens to a 13-3 record. But he injured his groin during the season opener last season and never regained the form that enabled him to earn a berth in four Pro Bowls.
"I am deeply saddened to learn of today's tragic news regarding the death of Steve McNair. He was a player who I admired a great deal," said New England Patriots senior football adviser Floyd Reese, who was GM of the Titans when McNair played there. "He was a tremendous leader and an absolute warrior. He felt like it was his responsibility to lead by working hard every day, no matter what.
"I don't think there was a player who played with him or against him that didn't look up to him and respect him," Reese said. "My heartfelt condolences go out to his family, his friends and the many teammates who loved and admired him."
Titans coach Jeff Fisher was out of the country, taking part in the first NFL-USO coaches tour to Iraq.