Coty Beavers was in his northwest Houston apartment on November 12, 2012, when the bullets ripped through him from behind. Whoever pulled the trigger slipped out as easily as he had gotten in, leaving the 28-year-old to die on the floor.
Two days earlier, a dark-haired man with thick eyebrows perched above his glasses had been wandering around the Legacy Park Apartments, asking people if they knew which apartment was Beavers’s. He looked to be maybe in his forties, with an average build. A police sketch didn’t turn up any leads.
People had been looking for Coty for a while. In 2011, when Coty and his new wife, Nesreen, lived in his mother’s Spring home, the neighborhood had been peppered with flyers containing an 8x10 color photo of Coty, advertising a reward of up to $100 for information leading to the couple’s home. Witnesses would later tell authorities that they saw Coty’s father-in-law, Ali Irsan, and Irsan’s wife, Shmou, trolling the neighborhood.
Coty knew his father-in-law to be a very angry, very dangerous man. Ali Mahmood Awad Irsan was a native of Jordan who considered himself to be a devout Muslim. He did not approve of Nesreen seeing Coty, a Christian. In June 2011, while Irsan and one of his sons were in Jordan, his wife and another daughter found emails and texts between Nesreen and Coty. They quickly notified Irsan, who instructed the women to strip Nesreen of her cell phone and laptop and to make sure she didn’t leave the house. Nesreen would later tell authorities she was held captive in her bedroom for two weeks before she was able to slip out of a bathroom window and flee to Coty’s home.
But that’s not all she had to say: She told authorities that her father had been committing Social Security fraud for years, filing false claims in the names of his children; he had hundreds of fraudulent credit cards — picture a stack of four decks of playing cards — in family members’ names and aliases; countless prescription pills, like Percocet, were tucked in hidden spaces throughout the house, along with cash, guns and jewels. There was so much treasure to hide that he ran out of space inside the house; the tub of a dryer was loaded with loot and buried in the backyard, covered over with dirt and leaves. Plus, Nesreen told authorities, the backyard was a makeshift shooting range. Five or six Muslim families would frequently visit, and the men would fire AK-47s at tree-mounted targets. Her father scared her to death.
Shortly afterward, Nesreen obtained a protective order against her father, but it appears that the only thing that kept Irsan from his daughter — for a while, anyway — was not knowing her address.
Coty had two other reasons to be concerned about Irsan. The first was that Irsan had already shot and killed one son-in-law 13 years earlier. Irsan claimed he shot the man, who was in Irsan’s home, in self-defense. Irsan also claimed the man had abused his daughter and that when Irsan shuttled her to safety, the man came over to Irsan’s home with a gun and a bad attitude. Authorities bought it.
The second was that, ten months before his own murder, in January 2012, someone had gunned down Nesreen’s friend, Gelareh Bagherzadeh, outside her parents’ Galleria-area townhome. The 30-year-old Iranian native had been going out with Coty’s twin brother, Cory. The shooting was still unsolved; police claimed they had no leads, and Crime Stoppers announced a record-high award, $250,000, for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
On the day he was killed, Coty was last seen walking Nesreen to her car shortly before 6 a.m. He then returned to his apartment. His body was discovered ten hours later. Nine days after that, Harris County Sheriff’s investigators searched Irsan’s home.
But it would be nearly another two years, after extensive FBI surveillance, before there were any arrests. In May 2014, Irsan, his wife and his daughter Nadia were charged in federal court with defrauding the government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then, in April 2015, Irsan, his wife and his son Nasim were also charged with murdering Coty and Gelareh. Montgomery County investigators also announced they were revisiting the 1999 shooting of Irsan’s other son-in-law.
There were guilty pleas in the federal fraud charges, but the Irsans say they had nothing to do with the deaths of Coty and Gelareh. Someone claiming to be one of Irsan’s 12 children (no name is revealed) created an online petition to release Irsan from custody, claiming that the family are victims of “racial prejudice and discrimination.”
It will be a massive, complex prosecution — Irsan’s trial is not scheduled until April 2017. It’s unclear at this point what kind of evidence Harris County prosecutors have against the family, but federal and state court records, as well as interviews with those who know members of the Irsan family, paint a disturbing portrait of a controlling, vengeful patriarch who was willing to sacrifice his children’s futures for his warped notion of honor.
A notion that may have led to three murders.
Nadia and Nesreen Irsan were crazy about the twins.
The sisters were studying chemistry at Lone Star College-Montgomery in 2010 when they met two other biology students, Cory and Coty Beavers. According to one of the women’s former professors, Candace Strang, Nesreen and Coty had an immediate spark. Nadia, the older of the two sisters, liked Cory, but it was unrequited.
The women had fought hard to convince their father to let them enroll at the college, according to the professor. The sisters were both “sharp as tacks,” Strang said; Nadia was one of the brightest students she’d ever had. Nadia was the more talkative of the two, but both were brimming with pent-up excitement over being able to get out of their father’s house for a little while. They created Facebook profiles, which they had to keep hidden from their father. Once, according to Strang, they even went to a Bible study group. And liked it.
At home the sisters cooked, cleaned and looked after their youngest siblings (there were ten kids in all). Their stepmother, Shmou, was perpetually pregnant. At 33, she was six years older than Nadia and ten years older than Nesreen. The sisters didn’t like her. They thought she was a “crazy bitch,” Strang recalled.
They missed their biological mother, who moved to Minnesota after divorcing Irsan in 1994. They also missed their oldest sister, Nasemah, but they never told Strang why she had to leave home in 1999.
“They did talk about their [biological] mom a lot,” Strang recalled. “They wanted to try to find her. [It was] one of the ways they saw out of their situation, is if they could find her.”
They wore headscarves to class every day and conservative blouses over jeans. Nadia described herself to the professor as a “partial practicing Muslim.” If class let out early, they sat in a common area, waiting to meet up with the Beavers twins. All four applied to an exclusive molecular genetics program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but Coty didn’t have the grades. (Nesreen, Cory and Cory’s mother could not be reached for comment; Cory’s aunt, Tina Rushing, said the family declined comment.)
At MD Anderson, Nadia still kept in touch with her Lone Star professor. In December 2010, she emailed her to say hi and mention how “finals are kicking my patoots.” She seemed positive, upbeat.
Meanwhile, Nesreen had made a new friend at MD Anderson: 28-year-old Gelareh Bagherzadeh, an Iranian native and Christian convert. She was outspoken about women’s rights in Iran, organizing demonstrations covered by local media. Nesreen introduced Gelareh to Cory; the two would later start a relationship, one that would be cut short.
By June 2011, the sisters had fallen off the radar. Nesreen didn’t respond to Coty’s texts and emails. It was during this time, Nesreen told authorities, that she was held captive by Nadia and Shmou. What happened to split the sisters apart is unclear.
After Nesreen escaped out the bathroom window of her father’s Conroe home, Nadia called her classmates, inquiring about her class schedule and what time she usually arrived on campus. No one talked. Nadia ramped up her efforts, calling MD Anderson police and reporting that Nesreen was trying to poison their father. That police department, along with Montgomery County officials, investigated and found no truth to Nadia’s claim.
In August 2011, Nadia contacted Gelareh and pressed her for information about Nesreen. According to authorities, Gelareh asked why Nadia and her father were trying to get Nesreen kicked out of school. Why wouldn’t they just leave her alone?
Nadia’s behavior grew even stranger. In November 2011, when Gelareh and Cory started dating, Nadia sent nude photos to Cory.
Two months later, on the evening of January 15, 2012, Gelareh left Cory’s home — they’d been studying for an exam they had the next day — and headed to her parents’ townhome. Gelareh’s mother called to check on her shortly after 11 p.m., and nothing seemed unusual. Gelareh told her mom she was about half an hour from home.
Cory called shortly afterward. The couple were talking on the phone as Gelareh pulled into the alleyway behind the row of homes when Cory heard a loud noise, followed by silence.
Houston police would later say that someone lying in wait fired fewer than five bullets at the car; the fatal shot pierced the passenger-side window and hit Gelareh in the head. The car, still running, rolled into one of the townhomes’ garage doors. A witness later told investigators about seeing a newer-model silver car leaving the area after the shooting.
Gelareh’s family pleaded for the public’s help at a press conference with Crime Stoppers and Houston Police Department personnel. The family and the police said they didn’t have any suspects, but the murder didn’t appear to be tied to Gelareh’s activism.
“She was an honest woman,” her father, Ali, told the Houston Press a few months after she was killed. “She lived with us, she was [a] very good student, she liked her job, but…I cannot think she had some enemy to do this…She liked everybody.”
Gelareh’s parents left Houston shortly after their daughter’s death.
“I have lot of memory in Houston with her,” Ali said. “When I look everywhere, she come in my mind, my memory…I cannot stay in the place I live with her.”
About 44 minutes after the shooting, a DPS trooper pulled over a 2008 silver Toyota Camry that was speeding north on I-45. Irsan was behind the wheel. Shmou was beside him. Harris County prosecutors would later claim that Nasim was also in the car.
At the time, it meant nothing.
Ali Irsan’s story was that the baby got into the pills.
It was 1993, and Irsan and his first wife, Robin, sued Walgreens over an allegedly missing childproof cap. Irsan and his wife were both unemployed, but Robin received a Social Security check every month because she was legally blind. For a while, Irsan got money out of a workers’ compensation claim over an unspecified ear injury in 1987. They married when she was 17 and he was 22. In court filings, he claimed to have studied medicine in Jordan, but he studied engineering and obtained a “diploma of medical laboratory” at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids in 1978. By 1984, the couple were living in Houston, and Irsan claimed he had received a “diploma of auto -mechanic” from Houston Community College.
They had four children, and now, they claimed, it looked as if the youngest might be mentally and physically disabled for life.
Their story was this: In March 1991, their 14-month-old daughter Nada awoke from a nap she was taking on her parents’ king-size waterbed, stood up and began climbing the shelves above the headboard. With no one else in the room to watch over her, she was somehow able to knock several prescription bottles off a cabinet above the shelves. (Irsan claimed he was home at the time, but it’s unclear which room he was in or what he was doing.)
One bottle, containing an antipsychotic drug called chlorpromazine, opened on impact, spilling nearly 100 pills on the floor. Nada began to gobble them up.
Robin, who can barely see, claimed she was cleaning the living room when three-year-old Nesreen ran into the room and said, “Mom, the baby’s in your medicine.”
Robin, now joined by her husband, blew into the bedroom, where they found Nada vomiting and “lethargic.” She was rushed to Memorial Hermann—Southwest, where her stomach was pumped, before she was transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital’s intensive-care unit, where she remained for five days.
According to the couple, Harris County Children’s Protective Services opened an investigation in July 1991 and found no evidence of abuse or neglect. The incident, the couple maintained, was clearly the Walgreens pharmacist’s fault. The pharmacist did not seal the chlorpromazine with a child-proof cap, nor did she explain to Robin that the drugs were dangerous for -children.
The Irsans wanted at least $75,000. There was, of course, the pain and anguish Nada had already suffered, and the pain and anguish she’d suffer in the future, if not the rest of her life. The lawsuit specifies that Nada would incur medical expenses “beginning at the time she becomes an adult under Texas law.” The parents also experienced mental anguish and physical suffering from witnessing their daughter’s injuries, including — but not limited to — “nausea” and “distractibility.”
Walgreens denied the allegations, and the judge found them “doubtful.” The Irsans settled for $10,000, and were ordered to pay their lawyer $4,500 out of that sum, with the rest going to Nada. The money would stay in the court registry until she turned 18.
Irsan filed for divorce a year after the couple sued Walgreens. He had no more use for Robin. During this time, according to sources who knew the family, Irsan had traveled to Jordan to marry Shmou, who was approximately 16 years old. For a time, Robin lived in the same home with her husband and his new teenage bride. Ultimately, she found the arrangements untenable. (Robin declined comment for this story.)
The couple had already applied for Social Security disability income to cover Nada’s special needs, but unfortunately for Irsan, Robin was named as the payee. The payments started in 1995, and that same year, Irsan reported Robin to the Social Security Administration for fraud. He claimed she had been living in Jordan from 1990 to 1993, even though medical and court records proved she was in the United States.
But Ali was nothing if not persistent: He reported Robin a second time, saying she had sold two diamond rings and didn’t report the income. The outcome of that report is unclear, but by that time, Robin was out of the picture. Irsan filed a motion for sole custody of the couple’s four children. Robin did not appear in court. Irsan won, and Robin was ordered to pay child support and health insurance. (In 2010, Irsan sought — and won — an order for Robin to pay nearly $40,000 in back child support.)
This may have been when Irsan realized that his children could be cash cows. The federal charges he pleaded guilty to earlier this year state that his complex scheme to defraud the government began in 1995.
In 2003 Irsan began receiving SSI payments for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. One year later, Shmou began getting payments for “affective disorders.” In 2005 the SSA notified the couple that, because they were living together and both receiving benefits, their payments would be reduced. But this one was easy: Irsan planted a second mailbox outside his home and told the SSA that the couple were now separated. The payments were restored.
Irsan was also smart enough to diversify his portfolio. He needed more revenue streams. According to authorities, he bought a circular saw in 2010, disabled a safety switch and cut his own feet. He sued the company, and the company cut him a check. That was an extra $75,000.
In 2011, Irsan’s son Nasim qualified for benefits for affective disorders and ADHD.
Irsan eventually pleaded guilty to his scheme of obtaining payments for his brood. On paper it seems so simple. And it all started more than a decade earlier, when he claimed his 14-month-old would face a lifetime of suffering after ingesting her mother’s antipsychotics.
For Irsan, Nada’s getting into those pills was a revelation.
The man showed up at the Splendora slaughterhouse in the latter half of 1998, looking half-homeless, begging for meat.
To Mustafa Salih, the man looked desperate enough, so he asked his supervisor if he could help the man out. The supervisor said go ahead, and the man thanked Salih and introduced himself. He was Ali Irsan, and he invited Salih over to his home to show his appreciation.
Salih went a few times, even bringing along family members. According to one of the family members, Irsan lamented over his first wife’s taking off and leaving him to take care of the kids all by himself. He tried to find her. He called her family and friends, but no one would talk. But at least now he had Shmou. And Shmou was compliant.
In his living room, he had a shelf full of law books. He told his guests he liked to study the intricacies of the American justice system. As long as he was in the United States, he might as well understand — and take advantage of — the rights and privileges afforded him.
On one occasion, Salih brought his friend Amjad Alidam, a tow-truck driver who made the fatal mistake of instantly falling in love with Irsan’s 17-year-old daughter, Nasemah.
Alidam, a 28-year-old Shia Muslim who had emigrated from Iraq, told friends and family he was going to marry that girl. Not only was she beautiful, but she needed to get out of that house. He knew that Nasemah was basically a housekeeper. Shmou did nothing. Nasemah had to tend to her siblings; she had to cook and clean. She was trapped.
Custom dictated that Alidam ask Irsan’s -permission to wed Nasemah. Irsan agreed, but for formality’s sake, he told Alidam to ask again when Nasemah turned 18. When the time came, Irsan reversed his decision. He didn’t want Alidam to marry his daughter. He wouldn’t say why.
Nasemah felt differently. She told Alidam she would marry him regardless of her father’s wishes. Alidam’s relatives told him to forget it. There was something off about Irsan. He was bad news. But Alidam could not be persuaded.
On August 23, 1999, Alidam received a call at work from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Nasemah came on the line. She had gotten into an argument with her father. Irsan hit her with a belt. One of Alidam’s family members remembers when Alidam showed the photos of Nasemah’s injuries. Nasty marks — clear outlines of the belt’s buckle — criss-crossed Nasemah’s back, arms and legs. Sheriff’s deputies filled out an incident report, but Nasemah refused to press charges. She just wanted out. Alidam picked her up, and they headed to Dallas without telling anyone. They got married and holed up in a hotel.
Irsan was livid. He confronted Alidam’s relatives, accusing the man of kidnapping Nasemah. He allegedly threatened them and then broke into Alidam’s apartment and took the answering machine — with its caller ID — home with him so he could call Alidam’s friends, demanding that they disclose his daughter’s whereabouts.
Eventually, Irsan calmed down. He apologized to Alidam’s family. He had overreacted, yes, but he was just worried about his baby. He changed his mind about the marriage. He liked Alidam. He wanted him for a son-in-law.
Alidam and Nasemah returned from Dallas, and Irsan just asked that his daughter live at home until they could throw a proper wedding celebration. Alidam didn’t like it, but he thought there was nothing he could do. He left Nasemah there. He would never see her again.
He called the Irsan home repeatedly, but no one answered for days. Finally, Shmou answered and told Alidam, “We don’t have a wife for you in this house.” Irsan had taken her to Jordan, she said. Alidam jumped in his truck and sped over to the house. Shmou called police and pleaded with them. This crazy man who was in love with her daughter was harassing the family, she said. He threatened to kill her.
When officers arrived, Alidam explained that he was just trying to find his wife. The officers told him not to return. Shmou obtained a protective order. Alidam was not to come near the home.
Alidam contacted a lawyer, who contacted a private investigator on Alidam’s behalf. In a letter to the PI, the lawyer wrote, “It is believed that Nasemah’s father, Ali Irsan, is interfering and hiding Nasemah from Mr. Alidam.”
According to Alidam’s family, the lawyer contacted the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and asked if anything could be done. The lawyer heard back from an investigator who explained that he had contacted Irsan’s relatives in Jordan. He told them he needed to check on Nasemah. A woman identifying herself as Nasemah came on the line and said no one had hurt her or threatened her, and she was in Jordan of her own volition, visiting her ailing grandfather. That was that.
Roughly three weeks later, Irsan called Alidam from the hospital at around 2 a.m. He and his brother had arrived from Jordan the day before, when suddenly he felt a pain in his chest, as if he were having a heart attack. Lying in a hospital bed, facing his own mortality, Irsan was seeing things differently. He wanted to talk to Alidam. He needed to see him right away. He wanted to make things right.
Alidam rushed to the hospital and sat by Irsan’s bed. When doctors said Irsan was well enough to leave, Alidam drove him home. Irsan said he was exhausted but he wanted Alidam to come by the following day so they could talk about Nasemah. Everything was going to be fine now. But, according to Salih and Alidam’s family, Irsan told Alidam to come alone.
“That day, I told Amjad, ‘Don’t fucking go,’” Alidam’s friend Salih says. But when it came to anything that had to do with Nasemah, Alidam could not be deterred.
Around 6:30 p.m., Alidam drove to Irsan’s house. A short while later, Irsan pointed a shotgun at Alidam’s face and squeezed the trigger. When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Irsan said he had shot the man in self-defense. Deputies saw a pistol in the man’s hand and bullet holes in the ceiling. Irsan said the man, his son-in-law, had abused his daughter, and he had to shuttle her to safety in Jordan.
The man had been harassing the family for weeks, threatening to kill them if they didn’t produce his wife. Deputies saw that Irsan’s wife had already obtained a restraining order against the man. The case could not be any more clear-cut.
Many years later, after she grew up and escaped her father’s home, Nesreen contacted her former professor, Candace Strang, on Facebook. She said she hadn’t seen Nasemah since that time.
“My sister wheraboouts are not known, she was arranged to marry someone my father approved of seven years after this happened [sic],” Nesreen wrote. “I dont have contact with anyone.”
Nine days after Coty Beavers was shot to death, Harris County investigators searched Irsan’s home. The search was not made public until KPRC’s Joel Eisenbaum reported it in April 2013.
A Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy told KPRC that investigators were waiting on test results of items they seized during the search.
Cory Beavers was also interviewed. He believed Irsan killed his brother — and that Coty had all but predicted it.
“He said basically, ‘If I’m ever killed or murdered, it was Ali Irsan,’” Cory told KPRC. “I mean, he was that specific about it.”
Three weeks later, according to the subsequent federal probable cause petition, an FBI agent contacted Gary Dickens, an investigator for the Social Security Administration, “relative to a multi-agency investigation involving Irsan.” The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, it turned out, had been conducting surveillance on the Irsans for a while. Dickens’s probable cause affidavit lays out in detail how state and federal agents pieced together what they believed was solid evidence of fraud, as well as evidence tying the Irsans to the murders of Gelareh and Coty. (One thing the affidavit doesn’t address is a trip Irsan took to Iowa in the midst of the investigation. Iowa court records show he got a speeding ticket in July 2013. A spokesperson for the Iowa State Patrol said she could not comment on the ticket, other than to say it was turned over to the FBI. The Social Security Administration and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office would not comment on Irsan’s activities in Iowa).
It had been two years since Nesreen originally reported her father to the SSA. Investigators questioned Irsan and other family members, but no arrests were made. After Dickens heard from the FBI, he interviewed Nesreen. Dickens stated in an affidavit that Nesreen said her father “controls all the money in the home and there are numerous bank accounts held in different family members’ names,” and that he also had accounts in Jordan. “Irsan is careful not to hold too much in the accounts in his name, because he knows it will affect his SSI accounts.”
Nesreen also alleged that her father forced her to serve as the payee for her sister Nada’s SSI payments and that he “opened multiple credit cards under multiple merchants in her name,” racking up more than $25,000 in charges. One of the credit cards was allegedly used to purchase $15,000 worth of diamonds at Deerbrook Mall.
Later, Nesreen alleged that Irsan kept much of his money in a bank account under Nadia’s name. She said she once overheard her sister brag about having $55,000 in her bank account before Irsan brought her back down to Earth by saying, “Do you think it’s your money?”
Dickens also swore in his May 2014 affidavit that a confidential source told FBI agents in December 2013 that he sold a pistol to Irsan, and that Irsan had asked multiple times for the source to either build or buy him a silencer.
Dickens, who was aware that Irsan was a suspect in both Gelareh’s and Coty’s deaths, knew that Irsan had already admitted to killing another son-in-law in 1999.
“Based upon the fact that two of Irsan’s son-in-laws have been murdered, that Irsan owns guns and possibly a silencer, and that Irsan has killed in the past, [I believe] Irsan is a danger to law enforcement attempting [an] arrest or attempting entry into premises where Irsan is located,” Dickens stated.
Dickens’s affidavit suggests that Nadia, at least, had been stopped and questioned by federal agents months earlier.
Nadia appeared to be a dutiful servant to her father. Between 2011 and 2014, she made multiple trips to Jordan. In March 2014, she was stopped by Homeland Security agents at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. They asked if she had any electronic devices. She said no. They searched her and found a MacBook. Nadia refused to provide the password. She admitted that she and other family members — whom she would not name — brought cash in from Jordan in amounts under $10,000.
But then Nadia had a question of her own. She wanted to know the names of the agents questioning her. They complied.
When state and federal agents arrested Irsan two months later and searched him, they found a little black book. Written inside were the agents’ names. Harris County prosecutors would later refer to this book as Irsan’s “hit list.”
Nadia liked to keep track of the names. When she and Shmou appeared in federal court for detention hearings a week after their arrests, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson provided one of the reasons she decided Nadia should remain in custody.
After noting that Nadia’s lies “appear to be almost endless,” Johnson stated that when Nadia first appeared in court, she “asked me for my name and was standing so close to her stepmother to elbow her while her stepmother was talking to me, in what I perceived to be an attempt to make her stepmother stop talking to me. I thought that was intimidating.”
Johnson also ruled that Shmou should be detained, saying, “I’m concerned, ma’am, that you may be so under the control of your husband that he could call you from jail and you would do what he said.”
In February 2015, Irsan wrote federal prosecutor James McAlister from his cell in the federal Joe Corley Detention Facility, where he was being held without bond.
“I, Ali M. Awad Irsan, hoping from God that you find in your heart to easy off our restriction which make it imposible to keep in touch with our kids [sic]…I’ve been treated very harshly by officials in the detention center. Maybe you can help ease all of my suffering. Mr. McAlister, as it seems we are guilty of something, I assure you we are not guilty…and all my family small to big are paying the price.”
Eight months earlier, guards at the jail caught Irsan’s sons, Nasim and Nile, trying to smuggle drugs to their father during a visit. They were both charged and released on bond. (Nile did not respond to requests for comment.)
It appears that Nasim, 21, was having an especially rough time. A little more than two weeks after Irsan wrote McAlister, Nasim was arrested in Montgomery County after he was seen dragging a donkey behind his Toyota pickup. A rope ran from the donkey’s neck to the truck’s trailer hitch. He was charged with animal cruelty, but he evidently was not driving fast, because Montgomery County officials said the donkey seemed to be okay.
But things got worse for Nasim. Two months after the donkey incident, he was arrested and charged in Gelareh’s murder, along with Shmou. Irsan was charged with both Gelareh’s and Coty’s deaths.
Federal authorities were also interested in Irsan’s nephew, Ahmed Garcia, a fugitive from Indiana who had been living with his uncle’s family off and on between 2011 and February 2013, when he was arrested and transferred to the custody of the Department of Homeland Security. He was awaiting deportation when federal prosecutors obtained a judge’s order to have him held.
Garcia is described in court records as “a material witness in the conspiracy to defraud in federal court and a person of interest in two Harris County murder cases.”
Garcia had fled from Indiana authorities after he violated protective orders relating to his ex-wife, Heather. (Heather asked that her last name and location not be disclosed.) Local court records show that in July 2009, he was convicted of invasion of privacy and sentenced to a year in county jail, but the sentence was suspended.
Indiana court records list his address in 2011 as Irsan’s Conroe home, and he was issued a Texas driver’s license in 2012 that showed his address as an auto shop in the 5700 block of Westheimer. According to Heather, Garcia surrendered his passport to the court but was allowed to remain out of jail on bond until he turned himself in for sentencing. Indiana court records show that he skipped town and was ultimately arrested in Texas.
Heather said that Nasemah — Irsan’s eldest daughter, who was whisked back to Jordan before her father killed her husband — lived with her and Garcia for several months. She said Nasemah was married to a man roughly ten years her senior and that “she was his slave…She had to tie his shoes, she had to do everything for him.” The couple had two children.
Heather also alleged that Nasemah “was scared to death of her father…She did not want her father to know where she was.” Heather said that Nasemah wasn’t worried at first about Garcia telling Irsan where she was, because Garcia didn’t like his uncle. According to Heather, it was only when things got rough between her and Garcia that he started talking about how his uncle was a dangerous man, something Heather took as a threat. It spooked Nasemah enough that she moved out. Heather says she never saw Nasemah again.
In April 2015, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson finally announced the charges in the murders of Gelareh and Coty, helping put an end to years of speculation.
“This is a one-of-a-kind case,” Anderson said following the arrests. “We believe now that these two murders are linked by the belief, on the defendant’s part, that his honor as a father and as a Muslim had been violated by his daughter, who defied his rule and married a Christian man.”
In a court hearing following the announcement, a Harris County prosecutor told District Court Judge Jan Crocker that Nasim was also in the car with Irsan and Shmou when they were pulled over on I-45 shortly after Gelareh’s murder. According to the Houston Chronicle, prosecutor Tammy Thomas claimed that Irsan called Nesreen after Gelareh was killed and told her, “I killed that bitch, and you’re next. No one insults my honor as a Muslim and gets away with it.” Thomas also claimed that Nadia had threatened Coty a few months before his murder, telling him, “I cannot wait until my dad puts a bullet between your eyes.”
An attorney for Nadia told the paper, “I don’t know if they’re using the daughter and his wife as leverage to try and get him to cooperate. It makes it look like their case is thin.”
One of Irsan’s two court-appointed attorneys, Allen Tanner, told the Press that his client was innocent and that Nesreen may not be a reliable source.
“There’s a lot of hatred with her against her dad,” he said, “and we don’t know if she’s making up things or not at this time.”
Shmou’s court-appointed attorney, Katherine Scardino, said her client has been under Irsan’s control ever since she came to the United States.
“This woman was sold by her father to this man that she’s now married to,” Scardino claimed. “She’s popped out eight kids…they have this Muslim culture that they believe in these honor killings. Now when I say ‘they,’ I don’t believe that Shmou is part of that, I really don’t…I think she’s afraid of her husband, and I think she does what the man — the husband — tells her to do. Now, what that is, I don’t know right now. I don’t know what part she had in the murder…of this young Iranian activist, but I do not believe that she is personally responsible for the death of that woman.”
Dennis Beavers originally agreed to be interviewed, but then changed his mind. He did, however, provide a statement to the Press: “Our country needs to be made aware of this crime. My families loss [sic] has not been the only tragedy in this country. My son was murdered by a so called ‘honor Killing’. Not in a Middle Eastern country but here in America. How can you call it an ‘Honor Killing’ when you shoot someone in the back of the head while eating a bowl of cereal in your own home? Where is the honor in this? If we in this country are not careful, a tragedy like ours could happen to your family.”
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The focus on the Muslim faith is especially strong in the online petition started by an unnamed Irsan child. Irsan and Shmou’s six minor children have been placed in CPS, and, according to the narrative accompanying the petition, “The children have been scattered all around and placed in separate homes where they cannot properly practice their religious beliefs. They are also being denied their constitutional rights to speak with their family for no apparent reason.”
The petition also alleges, “The entire family has had numerous threats against their lives by various law enforcement agencies, whether they were 3 years old, 16, or even 21.The 3 yr old was actually surrounded by swat [sic] while she slept, woken up to the sight of their machine guns in her face and then arrested. Her hands were zipped together, at which point she was walked out of the house.”
The site also explains how decent a man Irsan is: “He is kind and compassionate to everybody he meets, he is the type of person that no matter what your day has been like five minutes with him and he will take the crushing weight of the world off of your shoulders. He is known by everyone as an easy going person who loves his family. He has always provided for us any and everything that we could possibly need with very little regard for his own needs. He makes sure that we have the best of everything while he settles for scraps. He would go days sometimes even weeks eating nothing but bread and tomato paste because he had spent all his money buying food for the less fortunate.”
But perhaps the anonymous child’s best description of Irsan’s kindness, and martyrdom, is this: “I always said that he was a candle, in the sense that the candle provides warmth and light to everything around it without discrimination, but in doing so, it burns itself down, just like him.”