Fanaei was the daughter of Matthew Fanaei, owner of Matthew's Bar & Grill and Robin Fanaei Groom of Madison (Madison County). She graduated from Parkway Christian Academy before enrolling at UAB. She worked in a bridal store and also volunteered for a suicide hotline and helped grandmother keep house.
On the night of October 7, 2007, Fanaei attended a birthday party near campus. Afterwards she returned a call from a friend and pulled into the parking lot of Glen Iris Elementary School while she talked. During the call, she was approached by three men, one of whom asked if she wanted drugs. After a while, the three returned to rob her. She was shot point blank as she attempted to drive away.
Alfred Marina, Greg Hill and Maurice McCarty were arrested and charged with murder. Hill pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He testified that McCarty was the shooter, while McCarty claimed that Hill, who borrowed the .38 revolver and drove the stolen Nissan Altima used in the crime, was the gunman. After two mistrials, McCarty was convicted of felony murder in May 2010. Marina was convicted of felony murder in August 2010 and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
- Velasco, Eric (May 10, 2010) "UAB student Kayla Fanaei and her killer lived vastly different lives." Birmingham News
- Velasco, Eric (October 8, 2010) "Last of three men convicted in Kayla Fanaei killing sentenced to 50 years." Birmingham News