A Texas grand jury indicted an 83-year-old former priest, John Feit, for the 1960 murder of a 25-year-old schoolteacher and former beauty queen, Irene Garza. The woman’s body was found five days after she was last seen alive. She had been raped and asphyxiated.
An Arrest 56 Years in The Making
The priest was not a new suspect to authorities in Hidalgo County. He was considered a suspect in the case almost immediately, due to his Kodak slide photo viewer that was found near Garza's body, which was facedown in a canal. Other items, including some that belonged to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, were also discovered near Garza's body. Feit heard the woman’s last confession right before she disappeared.
Feit says he last saw Garza standing outside the church. However, he did not pass polygraph tests after being questioned by police. There was also an assault by Feit, only 24 days prior, on another young woman. The priest had been arrested for misdemeanor aggravated assault. He was convicted of the crime and his sentence was a $500 fine. That assault happened just 10 miles from McAllen.
The case went before a grand jury back in 2004; however, there was no indictment handed down. The district attorney in Hidalgo County would not comment on how the case had changed before it was presented to the grand jury this time. The priest is currently in custody in Maricopa County, Arizona, on a $750,000 bond. He plans to fight being extradited to Texas.
Is the Case Too Old?
While there are more arrests in cold cases today because of DNA, a case this old is not only difficult to prosecute but to defend. Evidence can be lost or damaged. Witnesses may no longer be available, locatable or alive. This can have a substantial effect on the defense’s ability to present his or her case.
Defending a charge for murder is difficult on current cases. When a case is 50 years old or more, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to have some evidence thrown out due to its age or for a lack of a chain of evidence. If you are charged with murder, seek assistance from an attorney immediately.
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