Former priest, John Feit allegedly killed Irene Garza in 1960, and it took police 56 years before they had enough substantial evidence for them to go out and arrest the now 83-year-old man. KRGV reported that Mr. Feit was arrested outside his apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona, on February 9, and he was taken into custody by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department Criminal Apprehension and Surveillance Team.
The year was 1960, the night just before Easter Sunday, when second grade teacher and former Miss South Texas, Irene Garza, went to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, for confession. While she was in the confessional, she told her sins to Father John Feit, and that was the last time anyone saw her alive again.
A search party was formed, and five days after Irene’s disappearance, they found her deceased body laying face down in an irrigation canal in McAllen. Irene had all her clothes on, but police discovered that her body had massive bruising. Beside her body, investigators found items that belonged to the Catholic Church, including a candelabra, but because it was in the water, all evidence was washed away.
An autopsy was performed, and the reports that came back shocked the small Texas town. It was determined that Irene Garza had been bludgeoned and raped while she was unconscious, and she later died from suffocation.
Police also found a metallic Kodak Slide photo viewer, which belonged to Father Feit, in the canal beside Irene’s body.
Police had always suspected Father Feit was the one who killed Irene Garza, but they never had enough evidence to convict him.
However, this isn’t the first time that someone accused Father Feit of attempted assault; there was another incident that happened 24 days prior to Irene’s disappearance. During the investigation in March of 1960, while police tried to determine where the priest was at the time of the murder, another woman, Maria America Guerra, told them what happened to her when she was at the Sacred Heart Church located ten miles away
She told police that she was alone, kneeling at the communion rail, praying in the church, when a man grabbed her from behind. The man, whom she later identified in a police line up as Father Feit, put a cloth over her mouth and forced her to the floor. She managed to get away by biting the attacker’s finger, and then she screamed. She said the man who attacked her ran away, and she was able to escape.
Police brought Father Feit in for questioning and gave him a lie detector test on whether he killed Irene Garza or if he had harmed Maria Guerra, and according to CNN, he failed the tests.
Father Feit was arrested for assaulting Maria, and the case went to court. The case ended in a deadlocked jury, so the former priest pled no contest to charges of misdemeanor aggravated assault. The judge found him guilty and fined him $500, and Mr. Feit received no jail time.
Irene Garza’s cousins, Lynda De La Vina, who was nine-years old at the time, and Noemi Sigle, who was 10-years old, always believed that Father Feit was guilty and that the Catholic Church covered up his crime of murder.
The main leaders of the Catholic Church strive to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church, and they took care of the problem by sending Father Feit to a monastery, Our Lady of Assumption in Ava, Missouri.
The years passed, and the case became a part of the cold case files of unsolved murders. However, Lynda and Noemi didn’t want the case to close completely or be forgotten. It wasn’t until 2002 that Texas Ranger Lt. Rudy Jaramillo began his investigation into the murder of Irene Garza. He concluded that the evidence “suggests and indicates that that’s who it’s pointing to,” meaning Father Feit.
This time, two separate witnesses, who were independent of each other, came with evidence to prove that Father Feit was guilty. Reverend Joseph O’Brien had been with him in 1960, and Dale Tacheny was a priest at the Missouri monastery, where the former Catholic priest had been moved to by the church. Both men said that John confessed incriminating statements pertaining to Irene’s murder, and they had kept his secret for many years.
Unfortunately, Rene Guerra, who was the district attorney at the time, didn’t believe the statements made by Father O’Brien or Father Tacheny. Mr. Guerra did admit that they never questioned the witnesses.
In the end, District Attorney Guerra decided not to prosecute the former priest of the Catholic Church because of insufficient evidence, according to Dallas News.
“Then-Hidalgo County DA Rene Guerra said he concluded that Father O’Brien and Tacheny were unreliable based on information from police and other sources, but acknowledged that he and his staff never sought to interview the witnesses.”
In the 1970s, John Feit left the priesthood and married. ABC News reports that Feit has children and grandchildren, and he regularly volunteers at the church.
The case was presented to a grand jury last week, and after the grand jury heard all the evidence, they decided to charge John Feit with murder. Currently, he is being held in jail without bail until he is extradited to Texas.
As John Feit was taken to the police station, the only thing he allegedly said was that he needed his walker, because he couldn’t walk without it.