Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Media Spotlight on Keith Norfleet

Posted By on Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 6:38 AM

In the aftermath of Steve McNair's death, much of the focus deservedly turned toward the former Titans quarterback and the woman who killed him, Sahel "Jenny" Kazemi. Also entangled in the frenzy, however, was 23-year-old Keith Norfleet, Kazemi's ex-boyfriend. In the four days between when McNair and Kazemi were found dead and when police declared the incident a murder-suicide, Norfleet was blinded by the media spotlight. An aspiring rapper in Antioch, Norfleet's every vestige of online identity, including vague if threatening MySpace messages and lyrics, were parsed for meaning and possible implication. Some websites didn't even bother waiting for a statement from the cops; the fact that Norfleet wanted to get back together with his ex-girlfriend was motive enough to convince them he was guilty of double-murder. Once official word came back from Metro PD, Norfleet was forgotten. He went back to being the manager of a White Castle in Hermitage, a kid who'd lost his girlfriend to a wealthier man. Friend Katie Benson puts it this way: "He's just lost the most important person in his life." When Benson first met Norfleet through a friend eight months ago, the 18-year-old was smitten. Their initial hang-out was a walk at Percy Priest Lake. Benson had a crush. But all Norfleet would ever talk about was Jenny. Benson says that's what made what happened next so heartbreaking for Norfleet. Shortly after they broke up, Kazemi started dating McNair, her ex-boyfriend's favorite player... "When (Norfleet) first told me about Jenny dating (McNair), his exact words were 'Can you believe Jenny is dating my all-time favorite football player?'" says Benson. "He kind of thinks that she did it to make him jealous." Benson says that Kazemi went out of her way to show off her new beau, even going so far as to bring McNair to the White Castle that Norfleet managed, a story backed up by one of Norfleet's co-workers. During the week leading up to her death, Benson says Norfleet was getting text messages and phone calls from Kazemi, hinting at reconciliation. "She had been coming over and telling him she was done with Steve McNair, that she had broke up with him," says Benson. On the night she was arrested for DUI, it was Norfleet who picked up the Cadillac Escalade McNair had bought for her. Later that morning, Benson was in Norfleet's Hermitage apartment when someone started banging on the front door. He didn't make it down the stairs in time to see who it was, but Benson says a text message from Norfleet later confirmed it was Kazemi who was trying to get in. "Keith was saying 'She won't text me back, she won't answer my calls.' He never did find out what was wrong," she says. Now, Benson says Norfleet is just trying to get by. He's taken two weeks off of work and is crashing at his sister's house; he didn't want to stay at his own apartment, she says, because of the reporters outside. Norfleet may have been closer to Kazemi than anyone outside of her family, says Benson, but he's still asking the same questions that everyone wants answered. "I saw him a couple days ago and he looked rough," she says. "He didn't think she would ever do anything like that. He wanted to know, why did she want a gun? What did she need protection from? He just wanted to know why. He had a bunch of questions about why."

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