In Focus

Former agent offers possible motives in murder

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Earlier this month, a 30-year-old Iranian woman was shot to death as she drove through her own neighborhood. Now we are taking a closer look at the murder and possible motives.

It's been a little more than two weeks since student Gelareh Bagherzadeh was killed outside her home just before midnight. Nothing was taken. Robbery was not a motive and there are no suspects police will speak of. Police won't say if they're close to an arrest and continue to say they can't rule out anything.

Regardless of a motive, and it seems no one including police know a motive, this murder is tragic. Bagherzadeh was on the verge of a new career when she was killed in her father's car just feet away from her parents' town home.

"I can't think of any enemy, anybody who would hurt her," said her brother, Ali Bagherzadeh.

Houston murder detectives still need leads to figure out who is behind Bagherzadeh's January 14 murder. Police and her family say she was an advocate for women's rights in Iran and helped set up some rallies in Houston.

HPD and the FBI haven't determined a connection between the advocacy and her murder, but former State Department counter-terrorism expert Fred Burton says it is likely getting all sorts of attention behind the scenes.

"This very well could be nothing more than random crime. There's something about this case, though, that tells me it isn't," Burton said.

Burton now works for STRATFOR, a geopolitical analysis company based in Austin. He scours the globe for connections between events that may not be obvious at first glance, and this murder caught his attention almost as soon as it happened. To him, it has at least a hint of international intrigue, especially considering the unpredictable history of the Iranian government.

"The Iranian government routinely monitors all these global opposition movements and they're not afraid of actually going after some of them," Burton said.

While it may seem far fetched at first, Burton points to a California case uncovered by WikiLeaks and reported by CNN. In the summer of 2009, the Iranian government allegedly worked with a hit man to kill a spokesman for a small Iranian opposition group living in Glendora, California. It was uncovered when that hit man backed out.

"They literally use assassination as part of their foreign policy," Burton said.

While the simplest explanation here may be some sort of relationship issue or even random crime, Burton warns on a case that's getting cold, it may be wise to broaden the options, especially when you consider how little repercussion there could be for Iran if they played even a small role in the incident.

"I do not see the US government, for the most part, doing anything more against Iran," Burton said.

The FBI says their agents are aware of the case but HPD is still investigating.

We told HPD of Burton's theory and all they will only say they haven't ruled anything out.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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