Decades Later, Woman Murdered By Texas Priest Finds Justice

Former Priest John Bernard FeitMaricopa County Sheriff Office

Irene Garza's raped, beaten, and strangled body was found in a canal. A priest escaped justice for almost 60 years.

A Texas woman who was raped, beaten and murdered 57 years ago at the age of 25 has finally received justice. John Bernard Feit, a former priest in the Catholic Church was convicted Thursday of murdering Irene Garza.

In April 1960, Garza disappeared after she went to confession at the Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, where Feit was a visiting priest. Feit, who was 28 at the time, was taken in for questioning after Garza’s body was found, but officials avoided prosecuting him for fear of harming the church’s reputation, prosecutors told the court.

This was not the first time Feit came to the attention of authorities:

He had also been accused of attacking another young woman in a church just weeks before Garza’s death. He eventually pleaded no contest and was fined $500.

Following the murder, Feit went to a treatment center in New Mexico that offered help for troubled priests and eventually became a supervisor.

Among the men Feit helped keep in ministry was child molester James Porter, who assaulted more than 100 victims before he was ultimately defrocked and sent to prison.

It was not until 2002 that police took a fresh look at Garza's case, which had by that time gone cold.

[A]uthorities reopened the investigation and interviewed another priest who said he saw scratches on Feit’s hands shortly after Garza’s disappearance. Another priest who worked at a Missouri monastery where Feit applied three years later said he confessed to murdering a young woman.

Feit, who is now 85, could face 99 years or a life sentence.