After jurors endured seven weeks of testimony, they delivered a death sentence Tuesday for a Jordanian immigrant who committed two honor killings in 2012 in a plot to get revenge for his daughter converting to Christianity and marrying a Christian.
A jury of four women and three men deliberated for almost an hour Tuesday before sentencing 60-year-old Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan after a disturbing and lengthy trial, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Irsan murdered his daughter’s new husband, Coty Beavers, and his daughter's best friend Gelareh Bagherzadeh in an attempt to seek revenge on his daughter for leaving the family home to convert to Christianity and marry a Christian. Irsan’s original plot was to kill five people, including his daughter.
After he was sentenced to death, Irsan heard Beavers’ mother deliver a victim impact statement with her two sons next to her.
“On November 12, 2012, Ali Irsan and his family destroyed life as we knew it forever,” she said. “That was the day they ambushed and murdered Coty, to restore honor to someone who never had any.”
The family hopes to see justice brought to Irsan’s son Nasim, who is charged with capital murder, and his daughter Nadia, who is charged with stalking.
“Honor violence typically involves participation of multiple family members,” said Coty’s twin brother, Cory Beavers. “We will continue to pray that everyone culpable in these murders are brought to justice.”
Bagherzadeh, his daughter’s friend, who was killed for supporting Irsan’s daughter’s decision, also had family present at the trial.
“By taking Gelareh away from us, they took away a true human being who would have helped anyone in any way that crossed her path throughout her life,” the family said through a family friend in a statement. “They took something good from our society.”
Prosecutors accused Irsan of wanting to kill his daughter, but according to prosecutor Jon Stephenson, “he [also] wanted to kill all those she loved first, so that she would suffer that much more before she died."
Irsan also has a troublesome past, the Chronicle reports. During the trial, some of his family members reportedly testified that they lived in fear of beatings with weapons such as a garden hose, his cane, and two-by-four boards. He was accused of raping his first wife and then manipulating her into marrying him. Another allegation was that he raped his oldest daughter and attempted to kill her when she married a man that he did not approve of in 1999. In that same year, he is reported to have killed his son-in-law in an act he claims was self-defense, though other family members say he planted evidence to fit this narrative.
One daughter alleged that Irsan praised Osama bin Laden, cheered the 9/11 attacks, and even encouraged his children to become suicide bombers.
In 2015, he was sentenced to prison with his wife for defrauding the Social Security system. He reportedly received food stamps and Medicaid and forced other family members to fake illnesses to receive Social Security disability payments. Irsan himself has been on disability since 1993, though others testify that he has cleared the land on his property and hand-built fences.
He also reportedly conducted several schemes, including falsely claiming he lost baggage during flights to get reimbursements from airlines, falsely telling his mosque he needed help with rent despite the fact that his wife was his “landlord,” opening credit cards in dozens of other people’s names including his children and deceased family members, and even scheming thousands of dollars out of corporations by faking injuries or falls and then threatening lawsuits.
The judge praised the verdict. “Don’t second guess yourselves,” he told the jurors. “You listened attentively to every detail. It was the right verdict.”
Defense attorneys plan to appeal the decision.