Jailed for life: ex-priest who murdered a woman in 1960

Jailed for life: ex-priest who murdered a woman in 1960 December 12, 2017

It took 57 years for justice to catch up with John Bernard Feit, 85, who was found guilty last week of killing Irene Garza, a schoolteacher and former beauty queen, after she went to him for confession at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, in 1960.
According to this report, although colleagues and elected Catholic officials in Hidalgo County suspected Feit of being involved in the killing, he was shielded to protect the church’s reputation.

Prosecutors asked jurors for a 57-year prison term – one year for each year he had walked free since killing Garza. The 25-year-old victim disappeared on April 16, 1960. Her bludgeoned body was found days later. An autopsy revealed she had been raped while unconscious, and beaten and suffocated.
Prosecutor Michael Garza, who is not related to the victim, had asked the jury not to view the now elderly and weak Feit as he is today, but to try to imagine him as a 28-year-old man capable of subduing the woman.
The jury deliberated just over four hours on Friday before deciding on the maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Afterward, Garza said at a news conference that he wished that he could take credit for the conviction and sentence, “but it was God-driven.”

Prosecutors presented evidence earlier in the week that church and elected officials suspected Feit but didn’t want to prosecute him. They feared it could harm the reputations of the church and Hidalgo County elected officials, most of whom were Catholic. Senator John F Kennedy, a Catholic, was running for president that year.
Feit, then a priest at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, came under suspicion in the investigation early on. He told police that he heard Irene Garza’s confession in the church rectory rather than in the confessional, but denied he had killed her.
Two priests told authorities that Feit had confessed to them. One of them said he saw scratches on Feit soon after Garza’s disappearance. His portable photographic slide viewer was found near Garza’s body.
Feit had also been accused of attacking another young woman in a church in a nearby town just weeks before Garza’s death. He pleaded no contest and was fined $500.
The church sent Feit to a treatment centre for troubled priests in New Mexico. Later he became supervisor with responsibility in the clearing of priests for parish assignments.
Among the men Feit helped keep in ministry was child molester James Porter, who assaulted more than 100 victims before he was defrocked and sent to prison. Porter died in 2005 aged 70.
Feit left the priesthood in 1972, married and went on to work at the Catholic charity St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix, training and recruiting volunteers and helping oversee the charity’s network of food pantries.
Garza’s family members and friends had long pushed authorities to reopen the case, and it became an issue in the 2014 district attorney’s race. Ricardo Rodriguez had promised that if elected, he would re-examine the case.

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  • Lucy

    I wish some of his protectors could be done as accessories. I guess they are dead though.

  • John the Drunkard

    That ‘treatment center,’Servants of the Paraclete, apparently tried to warn the church that sexual predators were untreatable. There are some damning quotes in the Wiki article about them. But I recall a quote in a book about the 2002 church conference on the topic. The gist was that these men had no remorse, felt no sense of ‘sin’ and were certain to re-offend.

  • Broga

    His church is culpable, not just him.

  • AgentCormac

    A man of god who willingly violates his own god’s laws? Who’d have thought it possible? Heavens, it’s almost as if they don’t think god actually exists or they’ll be brought to account by his supposed rules.

  • sowa

    So we have heinous crime and the very first thing local Catholics worry about is reputation of their worthless church and Seal of Confession? Priorities, people, priorities! Not only that poor woman was robbed of her life in terrible way, they also had to spit on her grave by allowing perpetrator go free and live long and I suspect quite fulfilling life. I second the notion that everybody who knew about Feit or at least suspected him, yet did nothing, should be counted as accomplices.
    Everytime somebody brags about Christian morals/values and how obviously superior they are, I have the urge to forcefully feed them entire Bible because of stories like this.

  • Robster

    “The church sent Feit to a treatment centre for troubled priests in New Mexico”. Perhaps all newly minted priests and stuff should be shipped off to one of these “treatment centres” before being set free to roam among us, just to be a little more sure that the priestly type can in fact function lawfully?

  • 1859

    But you have to ask, with so much evidence linking this guy to the murder, why did the police back off ? Surely the police can’t have been so intimidated by the catlicks, they ignored the facts. If so then not only is the church culpable, but also those in authority at the time who turned a blind eye.

  • Broga

    OT: Have a laugh. This is funny. Another example of God’s non appearance. ” “God is always in control,” he told supporters.” This is Judge Roy Moore to his supporters after he lost the Alabama election. His sister, spitting tacks on TV was especially entertaining, “These stories about him are all lies. But that is what they do.”
    Meanwhile that other low life Trump immediately dumped God’s candidate Moore. Made my day. I thought Moore would win.

  • gedediah

    The prosecutor says the outcome was god driven but, if that’s the case, then so was the crime.