Ex-Priest Charged in Beauty Queen's 1960 Murder

Irene Garza confessed to John Feit before she died
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2016 10:31 AM CST

Schoolteacher and beauty queen Irene Garza was found raped and bludgeoned to death in a canal in 1960, days after confessing to a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas. More than 50 years later, that priest has been charged with her murder. John Feit, the main suspect in the case for years, was arrested in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Tuesday and is now awaiting extradition to Texas, reports KFOR. Items found near Garza's body, including a candelabra, were traced to the church where Feit worked about a mile away, while a film-slide viewer belonged to Feit himself, reports the Dallas Morning News. Less than a month before Garza was killed, Feit had also been arrested for attacking a woman at a church 10 miles from McAllen; he pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and paid a $500 fine.

During early investigations, Feit—then a 27-year-old visiting priest, per NBC News—told police he last saw Garza standing outside of the church but failed lie detector tests. Later, two priests came forward claiming Feit made incriminating statements to them before he left the priesthood in the 1970s. A grand jury decided not to indict Feit in 2004, but a jury in Texas heard the case again last week and returned a different verdict, reports KTXS. It isn't clear if any new information was presented. A cousin of Garza, who was just 10 years old when she was killed, says accusing a priest of murder was no easy feat 56 years ago. "It was impossible for a priest to do such a deed. I mean, if you thought of it, that would be sacrilegious," she says. She alleges authorities at the time protected Feit in some kind of "cover-up." (Two murders eerily similar to each other remain unsolved.)

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