Steve McNair’s brief affair ends in tragedy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — 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.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair smiles while speaking  in Baltimore about the NFL Most Valuable Player award which he shared with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in 2004.  McNair

Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair smiles while speaking in Baltimore about the NFL Most Valuable Player award which he shared with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in 2004. McNair

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — 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. Police said Monday that Kazemi had bought a gun Thursday night from someone they did not identify.

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 continued to come 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 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.

McNair was with her but not charged. and he later made her bail.

The next night, McNair was out late with friends, but he and Kazemi got together 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. ET. 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 labelled McNair’s death a homicide Sunday but said they were reviewing every possibility before labelling 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. McNair’s brother, Fred, said the day of the shootings that he had never heard of Kazemi.

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 US$3 million.

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