Sunday, July 5, 2009

Steve McNair Tragedy

As you no doubt know by now, Steve McNair was discovered dead yesterday, our nation's Independence Day. As a fan throughout his professional career, both with the Titans and the Ravens, I was particularly saddened by his untimely death. As such, I have spent the last 24 plus hours soaking in every source of information I could. If you are like me, you have been frustrated by the seeming lack of information coming forth at this point (the time of writing this blog is approximately 8:00 p.m. cst July 5, 2009). An even greater source of frustration, however, has been the quick leap to pronounce McNair dead of an "obvious murder suicide". Before I go further, you should know that I am merely a criminal defense attorney and not a criminologist, nor do I have any inside sources within the Metro Davidson Police Department. Rather, these are my observations from afar, based purely on media reports at this point.

First, the facts as they have been reported. It appears that McNair and Sahel Kazemi started dating sometime after the first of this year. Apparently, McNair met Kazemi at Dave and Buster's restaurant and game lounge inside Opry Mills mall. They may have been dating a few months. A few weeks ago, McNair opened his restaurant, Gridiron 9, near the TSU campus on Jefferson Street. Since that time, McNair appears to have purchased a 2007 Cadillac Escalade as a gift for Kazemi. The vehicle was titled in both their names. McNair reportedly frequented her apartment complex in Hermitage and Kazemi reportedly frequented the condo rented by McNair, the same condo in which the pair were found dead. In the early morning hours this past Thursday, Kazemi was pulled over on Broadway in Nashville for suspicion of drunk driving. She refused the breathalyzer stating that she was not drunk, rather, she was "high". McNair was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the stop. He was not allowed to drive the vehicle from the scene reportedly because he had been drinking. According to the Tennessean coverage, Kazemi's previous boyfriend, Keith Norfleet, stated that Kazemi contacted him to pick up the Escalade. McNair later bailed Kazemi out of jail. It was this event that appeared to prompt Kazemi to inform Norfleet about her relationship with McNair. Norfleet claimed to be concerned for Kazemi because she was involved with a married man. Witnesses place McNair arriving at his condo somewhere between 1:30 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. the morning of July 4th. Later that day (some reports indicated around 7 a.m. and another report states 1:00 p.m.) McNair's roomate or co-renter, Wayne Neely, entered the condo and found the bodies. He phoned another friend of McNair's and described the scene to him. That friend, Robert Gaddy, is the person who called 911 to report the scene. Residents at Kazemi's apartment complex report having heard Kazemi and Norfleet arguing at times, although exact dates and times were not printed. Norfleet claims that Kazemi came to his apartment "early Saturday morning" and knocked on his door but she had left before he could answer it. Norfleet further stated he "spent most of Saturday afternoon looking for Kazemi and trying to find out if she was the woman who died with McNair." Police reports indicate that McNair died of two gun shot wounds to the head and two gun shot wounds to the chest. He died sometime early Saturday. McNair was found sitting on the couch with Kazemi in the floor. There was a semi-automatic hand gun under Kazemi's body. Kazemi had one gun shot wound to the head. They both were fully clothed. The condo was reportedly securely locked when Neely arrived. Police have yet to report on whether Kazemi's cause of death was murder or suicide. McNair's wife reported that she had not had any contact for a couple of days prior to his death.

I am writing this article in response to the many media report's that this was an apparent murder-suicide. Let me be clear about this, based on the reports thus far, it may have been a murder suicide. But to state such publicly is a rush to judgment and can only serve to harm the investigation. There may be many scenarios that could have resulted in McNair and Kazemi being found dead yesterday.

It could have been the roomate and friend. It seems a bit bizzare that a person could find two dead bodies and instead of calling 911, he calls a friend to come over and call 911 after viewing the scene. Most normal people in that state of shock would have immediately call the police and got out of the condo. Having said that, one report suggested that these two individuals had been thoroughly interrogated and released. It seems the police may have cleared them.

What about the wife? All reports indicated that she was very distruaught upon learning of the death of her husband and the father of her children. The police seem mostly convinced that she was not involved. It is, however, one the ususual starting points of an investigation in the case of a murdered spouse who was reportedly involved in an affair. If McNair was cheating on his wife, it stands to reason that she would have been, at some point, very upset about this. Maybe that point was months ago, maybe that point was some time after Thursday morning when Kazemi was arrested while driving the jointly titled Escalade. Who knows? I am not saying she was involved, nor do I wish to cast aspersions on her and her family during this horrible time. I am simply saying there are other possibilities out there and that a quick rush to judgment claiming this as a murder-suicide is an injustice to McNair's and Kazemi's lives. Let the police do their job. Once they have made a determination, then report on the facts. Clearly, the claim that this was a murder-suicide by Kazemi has already caused her family great heartache, the same heartache the McNair would suffer if the claim was that he committed murder-suicide or that his wife killed them both.

And what about that boyfriend? Have you looked at his myspace page? Seriously. Look at it Look at that tag line "never let anyone or anything come in between you and the one you love because when you do you lose everything." He clearly is distraught about losing Kazemi. Check out his Soundclick page. Listen to the music he chooses. On his myspace page he claims his occupation is robbing people. Yes, I know people often just make stuff up to be funny or sound big and bad. Look at his pictures. Oh, wait, he made his pictures private today. I viewed them yesterday, nothing but thuggery. The guy wants to be a rapper. He claims to have just learned about the relationship no more than 48 hours of their deaths. He claims Kazemi came to his house in Hermitage sometime Saturday morning, the same morning they turned up dead. He had access to the Escalade and Kazemi's keys. Keys to the condo? Was there a gun in the Escalade? Why haven't the police identified the gun and who it belonged to? They do state today that they want to talk to him. Too many bizzare coincidents here. I mean, really, does this guy look like the type of person who would be concerned merely because she was dating a married man? It does not look like he is the religious type, you know? Again, I am not saying Norfleet did anything here. It's just that this is a potential suspect and theory of how this crime was committed. Until it is ruled out, it is at least as likely a scenario as murder-suicide.

If you pay attention to Don Aaron's statements, it is clear that they do not want to say that murder-suicide is how they are leaning. They just identify the relevant facts. These facts, at this time, may seem to suggest murder-suicide, but let's not jump to conclusions. After all, suicide by gun involving a woman is far less likely. Of course, gun shot residue tests would have been performed at the scene, but even if there was evidence that Kazemi held a gun that fired a bullet, this could have been postmortem and could explain the multiple gunshots to McNair. What did the gun shot would to Kazemi look like? Was there starring and gun powder? What was the trajectory of the bullet. Was there blood splatter on the weapon? Too many questions left unanswered at this early stage. Law enforcement will tell you that one of the best places to look in murder cases are scorned lovers. This could be Mrs. McNair (unlikely based on police reports) or Norfleet. He seems like a very likely candidate. Again, I am not saying this is fact or that I gurantee he did it. To the contrary, it could have been a random robbery made to look like murder suicide to cover it up. It could have been someone who thought they had a score to settle with McNair. The possibilities are endless at this point. Let's wait for the investigation to be completed before we cause any more harm to the victims families.

Finally, I have read many comments to multiple media reports by readers who blast McNair for having an affair and stating that he got what he deserved. First of all, I have very strong religious beliefs and I do not condone anyone having an affair. Especially in the case with children. However, I do not know enough about the circumstances here to make any kind of judgment call, much less judge McNair and Kazemi. Maybe the divorce was to be final soon, maybe they were just friends without benefits. Who knows but God. For any of you to say that they were killed because of their sins does not promote Christianity. Judge not, lest ye be judged first. Save for Christ himself, no one has ever been sin free. Sins are not distinguished by levels. If we are all sinners, why don't we all die because of our sins? Are you telling me that everyone who dies does so because of sin? Explain those courageous children sitting in St. Jude's hospital fighting for their lives. Is it due to sin? Perhaps each of you making these claims would be better served to look inward at your own heart and find a better way to bring the masses to Christ. Just a thought.

My prayers go out to the entire McNair and Kazemi families and those close to them. May God ease your pain.

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