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Houston police seek help in murder of student as relatives dispute reports she was Iranian activist

Authorities in Houston are seeking the public's help in solving the murder of 30-year-old woman as her relatives question reports that she was an activist for women's rights in Iran.

Ali Bagherzadeh, 27, held a press conference outside of the Houston Police Department on Wednesday to seek information in the shooting death of his sister, 30-year-old Gelareh Bagherzadeh.

"She was a very loving person, very kind and always tried to be helpful to people," Ali Bagherzadeh told FoxNews.com following the press conference. "She was such a sweetheart. I can't think of anybody who would do such a horrible thing. They shouldn't be out there."

Bagherzadeh said his sister -- a molecular genetic technology student at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center -- was a dedicated student who was "very social" and active within Houston's Persian community, but denied news reports that she was critical of the Iranian government.

"As a family, we don't believe it's a political manner," he said. "She wasn't politically active. She wasn't even watching any political channels, she wasn't into it. I have no idea how those rumors got started."

Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties told the Associated Press that Bagherzadeh, who was born in France and raised Iranian, was active in promoting Iranian women's rights. Investigators are not sure if the shooting was related to those activities.

Calls by FoxNews.com seeking additional comment from Houston police were not immediately returned.

In prior interviews with the Houston Chronicle about her protest activities against the Iranian government, Bagherzadeh requested that she not use her last name because she feared for her safety, the newspaper reports.

Police have said the woman's body was discovered early Monday inside her car. The vehicle had crashed into a luxury townhouse development and its motor was still running when responding officers arrived at the scene. Bagherzadeh's purse and cellphone were found inside the vehicle.

Sgt. J.C. Padilla told the Houston Chronicle that the department has been frustrated by the case due to few leads and no suspects.

"This is probably one of my most difficult cases," Padilla told the newspaper. "It's very frustrating."

Padilla told the newspaper that local authorities were coordinating with the FBI due to the international undertones of some of her more controversial positions.

FBI Special Agent Shauna Dunlap told FoxNews.com, however, that "no information has developed" as of Wednesday that would necessitate the need for federal authorities to join the investigation.

"Therefore, we are not involved," Dunlap told FoxNews.com.

Padilla told the newspaper there was no evidence that pointed to a professional killing or that her death seemed connected to her political views. He said police had also discovered a prior report about an assault by a male acquaintance but have found no connection to her death.

Police had also interviewed her ex-boyfriend, who was on the phone with Bagherzadeh when she was shot, and a current boyfriend, but found them to be helpful and not suspicious, the newspaper reports.

A $5,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest and charges in the woman's death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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