McNair's girlfriend felt life was falling apart

Reports paint picture of woman in financial, emotional turmoil

It was the last act of a life that was beginning to fall apart.

That's the picture that has emerged over the past few days in media reports about Sahel Kazemi, McNair's 20-year-old mistress. Nashville police issued a similar portrayal in Wednesday's press conference, when they officially closed the case as a homicide-suicide. Much has been reported about the life of McNair, a star quarterback who led the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl in 2000, long before last weekend's tragedy. By contrast, Kazemi's story has been less reported.

Police said Kazemi, who began dating the married McNair five months ago, was facing a personal financial crisis. Though she told friends that the former NFL quarterback bought her an SUV for her birthday several weeks ago, Kazemi apparently was responsible for the payments, police said. She was still making payments on her Kia and had been unsuccessfully trying to sell it. In addition, her roommate was about to move out of the Nashville condo they shared, effectively doubling the rent for the Dave & Buster's waitress.

Kazemi's friends and family said the Iranian native was in love with McNair. She would tell them that McNair had promised to leave his wife and four sons to marry her.

But police said the relationship had soured recently. Kazemi believed McNair was having an affair with another woman. Days before the July 4 slaying, Kazemi saw someone she thought might be McNair's new girlfriend leaving his home and followed her, but she never confronted the unidentified woman, Sky News reported.

And McNair may have stood Kazemi up two weeks ago when Kazemi flew to Las Vegas to meet him. Kazemi's sister, Soheyla, told the Florida Times-Union that Kazemi flew from Tennessee to Las Vegas for the rendezvous, but McNair never arrived.

About two weeks before police say Kazemi killed McNair and herself, she poured out her troubles in a chance meeting with Vera Mosley Buckner, a customer at the Dave and Buster's restaurant where Kazemi worked. The young waitress asked Buckner, a stranger, if she could talk to her.

"She sat down in the booth in front of me and the first thing she said was, 'Have you ever been in love?'" said Buckner, of Decatur, Ala.

Kazemi then opened her heart.

"She said, 'I date Steve McNair.' ... And she said, 'We've been dating for eight months and we've been on all kinds of vacations, but lately he acts like he doesn't want to spend time with me and I don't know what to do.'"

By sometime in the early hours of Fourth of July she had made up her mind.

Soheyla Kazemi told the Florida paper that, despite having a sad childhood, in recent months Kazemi had "never been happier."

Kazemi, whom her friends called Jenny, was raised in Iran but left at age 9 after her mother was killed there, the Tennessean newspaper reported. She was raised by her older sister Soheyla in Jacksonville, Fla., where she attended Orange County High School. At age 16, against the advice of her family, she dropped out of school and moved to Nashville with then-boyfriend Keith Norfleet.

The decision bothered the family but wasn't necessarily a surprise. Kazemi's 23-year-old niece, Sepide Salmani, told the Times-Union that her aunt was strong-willed and independent.

"We didn't know until she had her things packed and said she was leaving," Salmani told the paper about the move to Nashville.

Kazemi had a volatile relationship with Norfleet for four years. It apparently ended in January when Kazemi called 911 saying Norfleet threw a phone at her, though no charges were filed against Norfleet.

But friends and family say Kazemi's relationship with Norfleet never completely ended. Norfleet's grandmother, Trudy Norfleet, told the Baltimore Sun that Norfleet and Kazemi continued to see each other, even as Kazemi was dating McNair.

Antonio Watson, a friend of Kazemi's, told WSMV-TV in Nashville that Kazemi told him 10 to 12 days ago that she was moving back in with Norfleet.

Kazemi began dating McNair about five months ago after meeting at Dave & Busters, where Kazemi worked for about two years, the Florida Times-Union reported. McNair gave her gifts and took her on vacations.

Kazemi's relatives described her as a party girl who loved to go out clubbing, the Florida Times-Union reported.

"She was scared to be alone," Soheyla told the Jacksonville paper. "She always wanted people around."

Kristina La Rosa, a co-worker of Kazemi's, sounded a similar theme in an interview with Nashville TV station WKRN.

"When I first started working with her, she was the girl that never wanted to go work, gave up her shifts," La Rosa told the station. "Then she realized there was more to life and wanted to enjoy it more, [so she] started working more, became more personable at work. She was pleasant."

Crystal Norfleet, sister of Kazemi's ex, told the Tennessean Kazemi was a "vibrant young lady" who might have been star-truck by McNair.

"What 20-year-old with little life experience wouldn't be captivated by that?" she said.

Kazemi was arrested for drunken driving two days before the shooting. In a video recorded by police car cameras, Kazemi told police she wasn't drunk, but high. She laughed and teased police officers and McNair, who was riding in the passenger seat, left in a cab without speaking to her. He later posted Kazemi's bail.

On July 2, Kazemi put her furniture up for sale on Craigslist.com. The Tennesseean reported that on the same day, between 5 and 7 p.m. Thursday, she bought a gun from an individual in the Dave & Buster's parking lot, the Tennessean reported.

On Friday night, Kazemi left work early and told someone that night that her life was a ball of [expletive] and "I should just end it," the Tennessean reported.

McNair went out with friends Friday night and returned home at around 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Neighbors told the Tennessean that Kazemi's car was already in the parking lot of McNair's condominium.

Police believe Kazemi shot the 36-year-old while he slept on the couch, then sat beside him and shot herself in the head, apparently intending to fall into his lap, Sky News reported.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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