Another Twist In Tennessee

By Kate Howard
Updated: October 21, 2009

TENNESSEE — A police report shows that Adrian Gilliam Jr. and Sahel Kazemi had become acquainted weeks before she approached him about buying the gun she used to kill former Titans quarterback Steve McNair. Their meeting was not a chance encounter, police now say.

When Metro police began investigating the murder of Steve McNair, they thought his girlfriend Sahel Kazemi bought the gun she used to kill him from a man she barely knew, Adrian Gilliam Jr.

Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas had initially described the meeting between Kazemi and Gilliam as “happenstance.” Police had said Gilliam was in the car business and went to meet Kazemi at the restaurant where she worked to talk about the Kia she wanted to sell.

“She was trying to get rid of her car and wanted a gun. And he had one,” Serpas said two weeks after Kazemi killed McNair and then herself.

But police later discovered Kazemi knew Gilliam and had known him for weeks before she bought a Bryco-Jennings 9 mm from him for $100, police documents show.

Police released a summary of their investigation on Monday with details about McNair’s and Kazemi’s final hours before the July 4 murder-suicide and information about the people detectives questioned during the investigation, including Gilliam.

Gilliam told police he sold the gun to a white female on July 2. He identified a photo of Kazemi as the person who bought the gun.

“However, in subsequent statements to detectives and agents, Gilliam has admitted that the sale took place on the evening of July 3, and that he had come to know Kazemi in the weeks immediately prior to the sale,” the summary states.

Metro police and federal officials refuse to elaborate on the relationship between Kazemi and Gilliam.

“I will tell you that law enforcement has been aware that the contact between the two was more than we were initially led to believe,” said Metro police spokesman Don Aaron.

The Early Show on CBS reported Tuesday that Kazemi and Gilliam had not just known each other for a few weeks, but had exchanged phone calls almost daily and hundreds of text messages in the weeks before she died — including a call at 12:04 a.m. the day Kazemi shot McNair at a condo he rented off Second Avenue.

Aaron would not comment on that news report.

Conclusions unchanged

Regardless of how Gilliam and Kazemi knew each other, police say the investigators’ conclusions about McNair’s death have not changed.

“While more detail and background have been learned since July, the totality of the evidence, records and interviews to this point does not in any way alter the murder-suicide conclusion,” Aaron said. “But, as we have said all along, anyone with information or evidence he or she feels should come to the police department’s attention is urged to contact us.”

Gilliam told police he bought the gun for protection after a burglary in his home, a statement that was supported by a burglary report he filed in 2007. He said he wanted to get rid of it and sold it to Kazemi, 20, outside her workplace at the Dave & Buster’s restaurant at Opry Mills shopping mall.

Gilliam is awaiting sentencing on a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

He served time in Florida after he was convicted in 1993 of second-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. He moved to the Nashville area after he got out of prison and had a fiancée and a young child. A federal complaint was filed against him on July 15 after federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents traced the 9 mm pistol to him.

“Gilliam has been interviewed more than once, and due to the pending criminal matter against Gilliam, law enforcement is not at liberty to discuss the statements,” Aaron said.

Gilliam pleaded guilty to the charge last month and is scheduled to be sentenced in December. At the plea hearing, prosecutors said for the first time that Gilliam and Kazemi had gotten to know each other over a few weeks but didn’t elaborate.

His attorney, Hugh Mundy, could not be reached for comment.

“Since we have a sentencing hearing on Dec. 18, we feel we are precluded from federal media guidelines from commenting at all,” said U.S. Attorney Ed Yarbrough.

Police said Kazemi used the gun she got from Gilliam to shoot McNair four times before killing herself. She was upset over financial problems and her unraveling relationship with McNair, investigators say.

Police said she had discovered McNair was also seeing Leah Ignagni, who told police she was followed out of McNair’s downtown condo by a woman in a black Escalade. The summary did not say whether Ignagni could identify the woman in the Escalade.

McNair had put a down payment on a black Escalade for Kazemi earlier this year, and the car title was registered in both of their names.

Ignagni could not be reached for comment.

Police said Kazemi’s jealousy combined with her mounting financial problems led to the shootings.

Guard denies report

The police summary shed light on the relationship between McNair and Kazemi. Text messages showed that Kazemi had asked for $2,000 the night before the shootings to pay her bills, and she also asked for assurances that they would be together. She told McNair she was having chest pains the afternoon before their deaths.

Chris Wall, who provided security for McNair and his family, was quoted in the Metro police summary as saying McNair told him that Kazemi was often calling him when he was with his wife and children, and he was getting tired of it. On Tuesday, Wall said he didn’t believe he was ever interviewed and he never heard that firsthand from McNair.

Wall said he could not comment on whether he knew about McNair’s relationship with Kazemi, but said that anything investigators learned from the security team was secondhand.

“Even though we provided security, Steve had his own life where he didn’t want security around,” Wall said. “We’re trying to piece everything together as well.”

He said he was gathering information from anyone he could talk to in the first two days after the killing, but denied that he knew anything firsthand about problems in the relationship.

“That’s making it sound like we had conversations about (McNair) and his relationships and that’s not the case,” Wall said.

Police spokesman Aaron said Wall initially declined to talk to detectives, but he agreed to a phone interview two days after the deaths.