The wife of a Jordanian immigrant testified Wednesday how her husband slipped into his son-in-law’s northwest Harris County apartment and fatally shot him minutes after his daughter left for work, one of two “honor killings” she and their son helped him commit.
Shmou Alrawabdeh, 40, the wife of a Jordanian immigrant on trial for capital murder, described in chilling detail how she, her husband and their adult son stalked and killed their son-in-law in November 2012. She testified against her husband after cutting a plea bargain deal that will reduce her pending murder charge to kidnapping.
Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, 60, a devout Muslim, is on trial for gunning down two people in 2012 to “clean their honor” after his daughter moved out of the house and married a Christian she met at a local college. The second victim was an Iranian medical student who was his daughter’s best friend who supported her decision to change her religion.
Irsan snuck into the unlocked apartment and hid in a bedroom while his son-in-law, Coty Beavers, 28, escorted his daughter to her car, Alrawabeh told the jury.
When Beavers returned, he was shot to death.
“He said he shot him,” Alrawabdeh testified, quoting Irsan’s words to her after returning from Beavers apartment. “He said he wanted to. To clean his honor.”
She told the jury that her husband planned to kill five people, including his daughter Nesreen Irsan, her husband and three other people close to her.
The wife’s testimony connected all the dots in a bizarre whodunit that sprawled across two counties and made international headlines and nationally televised news as it unfolded.
Alrawabdeh was one of the final witnesses in the four weeks of testimony prosecutors have put on in state District Judge Jan Krocker’s court.
On Wednesday, Alrawabdeh told jurors that Irsan felt disgraced when his adult daughter, Nesreen Irsan, ran away from home at the age of 23, converted to Christianity and began dating and married Beavers, who was a Christian.
“If a girl ran away from home, it would bring disgrace to the family,” Alrawabdeh told the jury. “Sex before marriage. She’s a Muslim, he’s a Christian. She ran away. All of this is a disgrace to his honor.”
Wearing an orange jail uniform, the mother of eight acknowledged that she made a deal with prosecutors to testify against her husband in exchange for a lessor punishment. She will have to plead guilty to felony kidnapping and will be released after Irsan’s trial after receiving credit for the years she has spent in jail awaiting trial.
Alrawabdeh said her husband believed the only way to recover his honor was to kill the man who his daughter ran away to marry, adding that she was born and raised in Jordan where “honor killings” are not unusual.
“I’m from an Arabic country and I’m aware of the culture,” she said. “The family would kill her to clean their honor.”
She testified that she wed Irsan in an arranged marriage when she was 15 and he was 35. She had eight children while living at Irsan’s three-acre compound in rural Montgomery County.
Asked specifically if Irsan had a plan to kill his daughter and why, Alrawabdeh said it was because Nesreen disgraced him.
“He had to kill her,” Alrawabdeh testified. “To clean his honor.”
She testified that Irsan also wanted to kill Beavers’ twin brother and the men’s mother in an additional attack that never materialized.
“They were planning a home invasion,” Alrawabdeh said. “He was just getting revenge on the whole family.”
Prosecutors have also contended that Irsan killed his daughter’s best friend, Gelareh Bagherzadeh, a 30-year-old Iranian activist and researcher at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Defense lawyers for Irsan have said the two slayings were not connected to Irsan and that no one knows what happened in either shooting.
Alrawabdeh testified that she and Irsan and their adult son, Nasim, were stalking Nesreen Irsan for months and vandalizing their vehicles. Late one night in January 2012, they followed Bagherzedah from the Beavers home to her parents’ Galleria-area townhouse.
Irsan planned to get her to open her car window and put a cord around her neck to strangle her, Alrawabdeh said.
When Bagherzedeh, who was talking on the phone outside of the townhouse, refused to open her window, Nasim Irsan shot her in the head, Alrawabdeh testified.
“She screamed,” Alrawabdeh said. “Loud.”
Almost 11 months later, Irsan, Alrawabdeh and their son Nasim were stalking Nesreen and Beavers at their new apartment in northwest Harris County, Alrawabdeh testified.
While watching the couple, they noticed that Beavers did not lock the apartment door when he walked Nesreen to her car before work every morning. Alrawabdeh testified that they planned to put water or sugar in Nesreen’s gas tank to disable the car. They decided that when the couple returned to their apartment, they would shoot them.
However, the first time they tried the plan, Nesreen’s car made it a few blocks away, so they scrapped the plot.
Alrawabdeh said Irsan decided he would have to kill his daughter and her husband separately.
On Nov. 15, 2012, Alrawabdeh said, the trio left their home in Montgomery County about 4 a.m. and went to the apartment to wait for the young couple to wake up.
After Nesreen and Coty walked to their car, about 6 a.m., Alrawabdeh testified that Irsan and his son went to the unlocked third-floor apartment and hid in the bedroom. After Coty returned to the apartment, he went to the restroom then walked into the living room where he had an assault rifle propped up against the television.
Alrawabdeh said Irsan told her that he came out of the bedroom and took aim at Beavers. She testified that Irsan told her Beavers’ last words.
“He said, ‘Oh my God,’” she said.
How many more Muslim families like this one – who plot to kill their own kin – are in the U.S.?