Police have determined that Sahel Kazemi murdered former Titans quarterback Steve McNair last weekend with four shots while he was asleep on the couch, then sat down next to him and shot herself in the temple.
Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas said at a press conference this afternoon that their interviews with Kazemi’s friends and coworkers showed that in the last five to seven days of her life, the 20-year-old felt her life was unraveling.
She had recently saw signs that McNair may be involved with another woman, and she might have been worried about making rent payments and payments on two cars, including a Cadillac Escalade registered in both her and McNair’s name.
“We do believe there was evidence that she was spinning out of control,” Serpas said.
Serpas said Kazemi shot McNair in the right temple. That was followed quickly with two shots to the chest from about two to four feet away. Then she shot him in the left temple, which Serpas said was a “contact shot” within two inches from his head.
Then she sat next to him on the couch, Serpas said, in such a way that police believe she tried to stage her suicide to fall into his lap. She shot herself in the temple. Police think she fell into McNair’s lap, then gravity pulled her to the floor.
According to preliminary results from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the 9-mm pistol found underneath Kazemi’s body was the same that killed both of them. While blood contaminated the gunshot residue test, there was trace evidence of residue on her left hand.
Serpas said Kazemi had become very distraught, and on two occasions told friends and associates that her life was all messed up and she “was going to end it all.” Several things were overwhelming her, including financial problems, Serpas said. Her roommate was moving out, meaning her rent payment was about to increase. She was also making payments on the Escalade she co-owned with McNair.
Serpas said Kazemi saw McNair with another woman days before the murder and attempted to follow the woman, whom police said they talked to but Serpas did not identify.
Police also believe Kazemi purchased the gun in the parking lot of Dave & Buster’s, where she worked, in the middle of a shift.
Serpas said there was no evidence that anyone else was involved, or that the crime scene had been tampered with by the men who found their bodies and called police that morning.
Serpas said they did not exact time of the shooting, but believed it happened sometime after 1 a.m. or 1:45 a.m. The next-door neighbor was not home that night, and arrived home between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., and heard nothing after that.
Serpas said there were no drugs found at the scene or drug paraphernalia, but were awaiting toxicology reports on the bodies.
A state medical examiner has said that preliminary testing from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation points to the likely conclusion of murder-suicide in the deaths of Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi.
Feng Li, the assistant medical examiner who conducted the autopsies, said he will wait for the investigation to be closed before he completes Kazemi’s death certificate to reflect that she died of suicide.
“The results were very consistent in supporting our decision,” Li said.
Gunshot residue and ballistics testing are also consistent with a ruling of murder-suicide, Li said.
“With the lab tests to be obtained combined with the autopsy findings, we will put a final opinion on the death certificate,” Li said.
Kazemi and McNair were found shot to death in a condo off Second Avenue on the afternoon of July 4. A semi-automatic pistol was found under Kazemi’s body. Metro police said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms traced the gun purchase back to Kazemi through a private person.
Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas is scheduled to discuss the results of the ballistics and gunshot residue testing at a 2:45 press conference. The Tennessean plans to covers this press conference live on Tennessean.com.