AFC South: Sahel Kazemi

A grand jury is slated to hear a former Nashville police officer explain why former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair’s murder case should be reopened, ESPN.com’s Liz Merrill reports.

From her story:
Rob McKinney, a defense attorney in Nashville, said it's unusual for the grand jury to hold such a hearing.

"I don't want to say it's unheard of," McKinney said. "But it's extremely rare."

As an outsider looking in, I’m surprised this is happening and certainly curious what comes out of it.

Vincent Hill, the former Nashville police office who’s presenting the information Friday, was part of this Dateline NBC piece last August. When I saw it back then, I had some major questions about his credibility and qualifications and lined up with this Jim Wyatt review of the piece.

Hill's recently self-published "Playbook to a Murder," outlines holes in the official case and his belief that Sahel Kazemi, who was ruled to have killed McNair and then herself, was not the shooter.

Perhaps there are lingering questions as the July 4 anniversary of McNair’s slaying approaches. Is Hill the guy who can pose them and offer plausible alternative answers?

I’m anxious to see if this grand jury thinks so.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

WHITES CREEK, Tenn. -- Mt. Zion Baptist Church isn't far from Interstate 24, north of Nashville. The parking lot is lined with orange cones and guides in orange vests, all set up to handle the 5,000-plus people expected to come here to pay their final respects to Steve McNair.

 
  ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
  Mourners wait to enter Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Whites Creek, Tenn. to pay their respects.
The hearse bearing his coffin arrived about 3:30 this afternoon, an hour before the visitation was set to begin. Traffic was stopped briefly on the highway. It won't likely be the last time based on the flow of cars.

An hour after the funeral procession arrived, a thick line of fans snaked from the door up a steep driveway.

Visitors are black and white, young and old, dressed in suits and shorts sleeves, scrubs and shorts, and No. 9 jerseys of every variety: Titans home and away, Ravens black, Oilers blue.

The procession past McNair's closed, silver-colored casket -- covered with white lilies, flanked by large pictures of McNair in a suit, one with him holding a football, the other with the 2003 NFL MVP trophy in hand -- is moving briskly, with no pauses or stops. It will last for nearly three hours.

Dorsey Hamby, 52, had met McNair several times and once signed an autograph for her: "To Dorsey, my greatest fan ever."

"He treated us like we were his best friend," she said, keeping her composure as she headed for the line. As she walked out of the sanctuary, she was dabbing at her tears. "I always thought it'd be me, not him, that maybe they could get him to come to mine."

Members of Omega Psi Phi, McNair's fraternity from Alcorn State, sweated through dark suits as they approached the church and added white gloves as they stood beside the casket.

 
  ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
  Tyron Eason, left, and Namon Anderson are members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. The fraternity will pay tribute to McNair, also a brother, with a ceremony Thursday night.

The fraternity will conduct a memorial service for a half hour before the church's memorial begins.

"We have a ritual we abide by when a brother has fallen," said Namon Anderson, 33, an educator who lives in Murfreesboro, Tenn. "We send him to the celestial chapter."

Wreaths and pictures of McNair lined the lobby, along with a giant collage.

McNair's wife, Mechelle, is expected to attend the memorial service. His mother, Lucille, is not. A second memorial is scheduled for Saturday on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi before his burial.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher and Derrick Mason, who caught McNair's passes as a Titan and a Raven, are among those scheduled to speak here. Eddie George, Frank Wycheck and Vince Young are to be among the pallbearers.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

In his 10 most intriguing moves of the offseason, Rick Gosselin includes Connor Barwin, Torry Holt and Donald Brown.

Houston Texans

  • Battle Red Blog wonders what Dunta Robinson would be worth in a trade. (I expect he ultimately signs the franchise offer of nearly $10 million and plays for the Texans this year.)
  • DeMeco Ryans talks with texans.com.

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Vic Ketchman of jaguars.com assesses the state of the rest of the division as part of his newest mailbag.

Tennessee Titans

  • Steve McNair's jealous girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, shot him while he slept before killing herself, according to police. Kate Howard's story.
  • Audio of the 911 call, courtesy of The Tennessean.
  • Details of Thursday's memorial in Nashville, from Janell Ross.
  • A slideshow of fans paying tribute to McNair at LP Field, from George Walker IV.
  • McNair had recently filmed a suicide prevention public service announcement, reports Ken Whitehouse.
  • McNair's larger than life persona brought the case into our homes, writes Joe Biddle.
  • "The great thing about Mac was if I called something bad, he'd make me look good,'' offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger told Jim Wyatt."The thing is, for years around here we handed it off to Eddie (George), handed it off to Eddie, handed it off to Eddie and played it close, and then in the last 2 minutes we said, "Steve, go win this game for us.' And he would."
  • Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler recalls some work he did with McNair, writes Wyatt.
  • Why is infidelity a part of the pro-sports lifestyle for so many, asks David Boclair.
  • The arresting officer in Kazemi's DUI told her McNair was not happy with her.
  • McNair never laid claim to personal perfection, says Tom Curran.
  • We don't know the athletes we worship, writes Mike Freeman.
  • McNair's top moments as a Titan, from Terry McCormick.
  • Larry Stone recalls how McNair could have been a Seattle Mariner. (Hat tip to USA Today's Game On blog.)
  • Jon Runyan reflects on McNair, linked from sportsradiointerviews.com.
  • Favorite McNair moments from Phil Simms and Clifton Brown, via Wyatt.
  • Jason Lisk ponders Chris Johnson heading into his second year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Some points of interest from the news conference just held by Nashville police in the Steve McNair case, which has now been ruled a murder-suicide by Sahel Kazemi. The news was delivered by police Chief Ronal Serpas:

  • Kazemi had sent messages in the past five to seven days that things were going badly for her and that she "was thinking about ending it."
  • Police said Kazemi thought McNair was in another extramarital relationship, that she had observed the second woman leaving McNair's downtown condo and tried to follow her to identify her. Officials do not believe the two had any encounter or confrontation.
  • Police believe that McNair was asleep when he was shot and that Kazemi then positioned herself to fall on his lap when she shot herself. They believe she did land on his lap, but ultimately slipped to the ground at his feet. There was no note.
  • The caliber of the semi-automatic pistol had not previously been disclosed. It was a 9 mm gun, and ballistic tests showed it fired the four shots at McNair and the one to Kazemi's head. She bought the gun for $100 from someone she knew in the parking lot of Opry Mills, the mall where she worked at Dave & Buster's.
  • Although the 44-minute delay between Wayne Neely's discovery of the bodies and a 911 call was a concern to police, Serpas said such a delay is not uncommon because such a discovery can leave people dazed and blur their sense of time. Police are confident nothing in the room was moved or staged, with the exception of one shell casing Neely moved because he was nervous, scared and didn't know what to do. That has been fully accounted for, Serpas said.
  • There are still ongoing elements of the investigation, including examination of some video from the area around the crime scene, plus a toxicology report that could take several more weeks. None of those unclosed elements would have a bearing on the murder-suicide conclusion, Serpas said.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Clark Judge puts Jack Del Rio and Gary Kubiak on the back burner on his list of coaches on the hot seat.

Houston Texans

  • I picked Brian Cushing as the AFC South's potential breakout player.
  • There aren't many starting jobs up for grabs, writes Alan Burge.
  • The Battle Red Blog looks into Adam Schein's contention that the Texans have a better defensive line than the Titans. Two words that have not been factored into this enough: Travis Johnson.

Indianapolis Colts

  • "Despite the fact the Colts are sold out for the 2009 season and have a waiting list of about 15,000 for season tickets, they still make an effort with summer community outreach programs," writes Phillip B. Wilson.
  • Dominic Rhodes talked to Colin Cowherd and covered some Colts topics.
  • John Oehser doesn't think Jeff Saturday wound up needing knee surgery.
  • A breakdown of cornerback Tim Jennings, from Oehser.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • New safety Gerald Alexander is anxious for his first hit, writes Vic Ketchman of jaguars.com.

Tennessee Titans

  • Robert Gaddy, Steve McNair's close friend, said the former quarterback had no plans to divorce and that he and his wife were looking for a new house, reports Jim Wyatt.
  • Analysts hope the circumstances of McNair's death won't taint his legacy, says Wyatt.
  • Parents and coaches are using McNair as a teaching tool, writes Jessica Bliss.
  • Ken Whitehouse and Sam Claycombe look at some of the people tied to the McNair case and say police have determined that some eerie song lyrics posted on the Internet went up after the deaths, not before them.
  • Kate Howard reports an explanation of the song lyrics by Sahel Kazemi's ex-boyfriend.
  • How has McNair's death affected McNair's Mississippi hometown? Gary Estwick has the story.
  • Titans Radio has broken its "Memories of McNair" broadcast into seven segments you can hear from here.
  • Jamison Hensley did a poll and found McNair unlikely to make the Hall of Fame. I agree with that. He was good, sometimes great, but not great often enough to be considered one of the best of all time. He trails too many of his contemporaries.
  • Jason Whitlock says parenting is the biggest issue in what happened with McNair.
  • More on McNair: Lance Zierlein and Mike Tanier.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Metro Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron just told local press that the semiautomatic pistol that killed Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi was purchased by Kazemi on Thursday from a private individual.

Still, police await results of ballistic and gunshot residue testing and Aaron said a classification of Kazemi's death will not be made before those tests are completed.

McNair's death Saturday has been classified as a homicide. He was shot twice in the chest and twice in the head. Kazemi was shot once in the head, and the gun was found under her body.

Police have also said McNair, who was married, and Kazemi were in a "dating relationship" for several months and that she drove a Cadillac Escalade that had a title in both of their names.

The Tennessean's Kate Howard reports that three of McNair's four wounds resulted from gunshots from more than three feet away and that the gun was touching Kazemi's head when it was fired.

Earlier Monday afternoon, Titans coach Jeff Fisher spoke publicly for the first time since returning from a trip to the Middle East to visit with troops.

At Titans headquarters, Fisher and two former teammates of McNair's, Eddie George and Brad Hopkins, urged fans and observers to set aside the circumstances of McNair's death and resist the temptation to judge him.

Find the story I did on that right here.

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