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Steve McNair's shooting death a homicide, police say

Former NFL quarterback was shot twice in chest and twice in head. Police are told the married McNair was dating woman found with him, who had single fatal gunshot to head. Investigation continues.

July 06, 2009|Jamie Smith Hopkins

The death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair this weekend was a homicide, Nashville police said Sunday, adding it could be days before they will be able to classify the death of the woman found in the same condominium with a pistol underneath her body.

McNair was shot four times -- twice in the chest and twice in the head, according to police. Sahel Kazemi, 20, had a single gunshot wound to the side of her head. Police said they have been told that McNair, who was married, was dating Kazemi.

The 36-year-old McNair played 13 seasons in the NFL and led the Tennessee Titans to their only Super Bowl in the 1999 season.

Police would not say whether they believe it was a murder-suicide but signaled that they were leaning strongly in that direction.

Asked at a news conference Sunday afternoon whether the person who killed McNair could be loose in Nashville, police spokesman Don Aaron said: "Based on the evidence at the scene and based on what we know from witnesses thus far, you can lean certain ways in the investigation.

"But you can't be close-minded in the investigation."

Aaron said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was helping Nashville police trace the ownership of the semiautomatic pistol found underneath Kazemi. He said evidence at the scene was "consistent" with the gun and the condominium showed no sign of forced entry.

One of Kazemi's relatives told the Tennessean newspaper on Sunday she doesn't believe the woman killed McNair or herself.

"All she was trying to do was have fun," said Sepideh Salmani, who is Kazemi's niece but was raised as her sister. "Nothing else. I believe there is a third person involved."

Kazemi told Salmani that McNair was getting divorced, the Tennessean reported.

"That's why she was like, 'OK, now you're divorcing. We can date,' " Salmani told the newspaper.

The Tennessean said court records show no divorce is pending in Nashville, but McNair's home is for sale.

Aaron, the police spokesman, said McNair's wife, Mechelle, is "very distraught" and that police do not believe she was involved in the shootings.

Fred McNair, Steve McNair's oldest brother, said some family members would probably travel to Nashville today to consult with Mechelle McNair.

"It's still kind of hard to believe," he said. "He was the greatest person in the world. He gave back to the community. He loved kids and he wanted to be a role model to kids."

The bodies were found Saturday afternoon by Wayne Neeley, a longtime friend of McNair's who said he rents the condo with McNair.

Police believe McNair and Kazemi died early that morning.

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Baltimore Sun reporter Ken Murray and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

jamie.smith.hopkins @baltsun.com

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