A Jordanian immigrant was sentenced to death in Texas on Aug. 14 for his “honor killings” of his son-in-law and daughter’s close friend.
Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, 60, was found guilty of capital murder last month for the 2012 fatal shootings of his daughter’s new husband, Coty Beavers, 28, and her best friend, Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30, who was an Iranian rights activist. After a five week trial, the Harris County jury deliberated for just 35 minutes before reaching their verdict.
The same jury took about nine hours to sentence Irsan to death.
Prosecutors allege that Irsan, a conservative Muslim who emigrated from Jordan in 1979, become enraged after his daughter, Nesreen, married Beaver who was a Christian and converted to Christianity. Investigators said that it was Bagherzadeh who had encouraged her friend to marry Beavers. The couple married in July 2012.
Police said that Irsan, along with his wife, Shmou Alrawabdeh, and son, Nasim, followed Bagherzadeh to her parents’ home in January 2012. Nasim then shot her in her car.
That November, the 60-year-old slipped into Beavers’ unlocked apartment near Houston, waited for his daughter to leave for work, and then shot his son-in-law, according to Alrawabdeh, who testified in her husband’s trial as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Alrawabdeh testified at the trial that her husband tried to “clean his honor” with the killings. She told jurors her husband also planned on killing their daughter, Beavers’ twin brother and Beavers’ mother.
Irsan portrayed himself as a devoted father who became upset after his daughter ran away from home. At the trial, he told jurors that he wasn’t involved in the deaths. He said his daughter had caused his family pain by marrying Beavers.
Nesreen testified that she had to obtain a protective order to prevent her family from harassing her after she moved out.
During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors alleged that Irsan killed a different son-in-law in 1999 because he did not approve of the man’s marriage to his eldest daughter, The Houston Chronicle reported. Witnesses testified that Irsan blasted son-in-law Amjad Alidam with a shotgun after inviting Alidam to his home. Irsan then planted the pistol on Alidam’s body and escaped criminal charges by claiming he acted in self-defense.
“Ali Irsan gets to be the judge, jury, and executioner of anyone who goes outside of Ali Irsan’s control,” special prosecutor Marie Primm said during the trial.
Some of Irsan’s family also testified at trial that they lived in fear of daily beatings. One of his daughters said Irsan celebrated the 9/11 attacks on the United States and praised Osama Bin Ladan. He also had told his children they should offer to become suicide bombers.
In 2015, Irsan, Alrawabdeh, and another daughter were sentenced to federal prison for defrauding the Social Security Administration.
Irsan’s attorneys said they were disappointed in the verdict and noted that it would automatically be appealed.
Victims’ Families Speak Out
Beavers’ mother, Shirley McCormick, delivered a victim impact statement in court immediately after the death penalty was handed down.
“On November 12, 2012, Ali Irsan and his family destroyed life as we knew it forever,” she said, The Houston Chronicle reported.
“That was the day they ambushed and murdered Coty, to restore honor to someone who never had any.”
Beavers’ twin brother, Cory, told reporters outside court that the family would focus on the remaining suspects who are awaiting trial: Irsan’s adult son, Nasim, who is charged with capital murder, and his adult daughter, Nadia, who is charged with stalking.
“Honor violence typically involves participation of multiple family members. We will continue to pray that everyone culpable in these murders are brought to justice,” he said.
Bagherzadeh’s parents, who attended every day of the trial, speaking through a family friend Kathy Soltani said they were pleased with the outcome.
“We came from a country where people fight for democracy—from Iran—Ali Irsan came from a country where they don’t believe in democracy, either. But we came because we were in pursuit of happiness, and freedom of speech and democracy. So was Gelareh,” she said.
“She gave her life fighting for her friend, Nesreen. She believes in helping people and Ali Irsan obviously did not. But at the end of the day, this moment is what we all were waiting for—democracy at its best.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.