Dating former priest
The case was propelled to the national spotlight when a series of news outlets reported on the story, which became a lightning rod in the 2014 race for district attorney.The cold case took center stage in that election, with Garza’s family blaming Guerra for failing to present enough evidence to indict Feit.
Abuse cases also have roiled Catholic parishes elsewhere the nation, sometimes decades after evidence of the crimes first emerged.The indictment charges the ex-priest with murder by asphyxiation.Now frail and using a walker in courtroom appearances, Feit was a 27-year-old priest in Mc Allen when Garza’s half-clothed body was discovered in a canal days after she was last seen going to confession at Sacred Heart Church.Feit has always denied involvement in the crime but acknowledged that a Kodak photographic slide viewer found near Garza’s body belonged to him.The church later moved Feit into a monastery, according to old press reports on the case, and nobody was ever charged.EDINBURG, Texas (CN) – An April trial date has been set for the former Catholic priest charged with the 1960 murder of a South Texas beauty queen whose body was found dumped in an irrigation canal after she confessed to him.
A Hidalgo County judge this week scheduled 84-year-old John Feit’s trial for April 24.
“As the case unfolded, the community of Mc Allen, Texas became convinced defendant Feit was involved and that local authorities entered into some sort of agreement with the Catholic Church to ‘cover up’ his involvement,” the April 4 motion to change venue states.
“Nearly every potential juror in Hidalgo County has prejudged defendant Feit or knows and talks to someone who has.” The motion to change venue is accompanied by a memorandum in support of the motion.
He became the prime suspect almost immediately after Garza’s April 16, 1960 slaying stunned the community.
An autopsy determined that the former Miss All South Texas Sweetheart had been beaten, suffocated and raped while unconscious on the day before Easter.
In 1960, the judge overseeing Feit’s criminal case for attempting to rape a different South Texas woman around the time of Garza’s disappearance moved the case out of Hidalgo County due to “unusual publicity and notoriety.” According to Feit’s new motion for change of venue, the media in 1960 drew parallels between the attack upon that woman and Garza’s disappearance, “heralding the charges against Feit as evidence of his alleged guilt.” That case was moved to Travis County, but Feit’s attorneys still say in their filing that “the transfer did nothing to quell the media frenzy or the community’s speculation.” Feit ended up pleading guilty to assault in that case.