HOUSTON -

An accused killer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to defrauding the federal government.

Ali Irsan, 56, was charged with felony murder in the death of Gelareh Bagherzadeh, who was shot and killed outside her Galleria-area townhome on Jan. 15, 2012.

Investigators said Bagherzadeh was a graduate student studying genetic research at M.D. Anderson.

Friends said the 30-year-old was passionate about freedom and democracy, and speculated her slaying may have been politically motivated.

Bagherzadeh’s death remained unsolved for two years until investigators managed to connect Irsan, a father of 12, to the killing.

They raided his home on May 22, 2014, and, in addition to the murder, charged him with fraud.

His wife, Shmou Ali Alrawabdeh, and daughter, Nadia Irsan, are also accused of committing fraud, which include stealing federal disability funds.

All three remain in custody. The trial is scheduled to begin August 19.