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Honor Killing in Houston: 3-Year Mystery Solved

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Investigators in Texas say they have finally solved the mysterious murder of Gelareh Bagherzadeh, a 30-year old Iranian activist and researcher at MD Anderson.

Bagherzadeh was shot to death in her car in front of her family’s condo in Houston’s Galleria area in 2012.

Investigators now say that after a meticulous investigation, they now know that Bagherzadeh’s murder was an honor killing carried out by her best friend’s family who accused her of helping to convert their daughter, Nesreen Irsan, to Christianity.

After three years, enough evidence has been collected to charge Ali Irsan, an immigrant from Jordan, his wife Shmou Ali Alrawabdeh and their son Nasim with capital murder. Another daughter Nadia, will be charged with stalking her sister to try to discover where she and her husband were hiding.

According to Devon Anderson, the district attorney handling the case, “Nesreen Irsan would not succumb to her father's complete domination and rule of her. And she left his home without his permission and went into hiding."

Nesreen married Coty Beavers, who was also murdered 10 months after Bagherzadeh. Bagherzadeh was speaking on her cell phone to her boyfriend, Beavers’ twin brother, when she was murdered.

Anderson says that investigators now know that the murders were perpetrated by Ali.

"These two murders are linked by the belief on the defendant's part that his honor as a father and a Muslim has been violated by his daughter, who defied his rule and married a Christian man," she said.

Another previously unsolved murder is also being investigated. In 1999, Iran shot and killed another son-in-law, Amjad Alidam. At the time, Ali claimed he had shot Alidam in self-defense and was not charged.

But Nesreen has testified to police that Irsan lured Alidam to the house and murdered him. Afterward, he staged the scene to appear as if Alidam had threatened Irsan and fired first. Nesreen said that Ali shot the wall with another gun and then placed it near Alidam’s body.

The investigation is still on-going in that case.

Meanwhile, Ali, his wife and daughter have been in police custody a year in connection with a vast fraud investigation, which has allowed investigators to solve the murder cases.

"People want justice and they want justice yesterday. But in order for there to be true justice, it does require meticulous work and detail," said Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

A statement released by Bagherzadeh's family read:  "The family is overjoyed about the latest development in their daughter's case. They appreciate the tireless efforts of the DA's office and HPD in Gelareh's case. Today, they are happy but still extremely sad. They have suffered in the past 39 months and nothing will bring their precious daughter back. Emotions are raw as they relive the horrific memories."

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org