It’s been 56 years since South Texas beauty queen Irene Garza was found murdered and floating in an irrigation canal in McAllen, TX. This dark-haired beauty queen was brutally beaten and raped. There were no eye witnesses, and the evidence of fingerprints and blood has been washed away in the canal. Upon investigation, detectives learned that Garza had no known enemies and was deeply religious. Investigating detectives had more questions than answers from the onset.
The investigation then focused on events that led up to the discovery of Garza’s body. Her car was found the day after her disappearance and was close to the Sacred Heart Church. In the following days, her purse was found in a nearby field, and one of her shoes was discovered a few miles from the church. Upon speaking with Catholic priest John Feit, then 27- years old, authorities learned that he had heard confession by Garza the night she went missing. Feit become a person of interest when they found his Eastman Kodaslide viewer with her body and when they learned that a 20-year-old college student claimed that Feit attacked her in Sacred Heart Church. Four months later, Feit was charged and tried for this assault. The trial resulted in a hung jury, and Feit wound up pleading to a lesser misdemeanor charge. At the same time, the murder case of Garza went cold.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Feit went about getting on with his life. He worked at a monastery in Missouri and a religious order in New Mexico. Throughout this time, the Garza murder case had long gone cold. That is until two witnesses came forward with new evidence in 2002. Both of these witnesses were former colleagues of Feit’s and reported that Feit confessed to them that he restrained Garza after hearing her confession, kept her in the rectory basement and later murdered her. These witnesses further reported that Feit had put a bag over Garza’s head and placed her in a bathtub, where she died. Even with these witness statements, District Attorney Rene Guerra felt there wasn’t enough evidence to secure an indictment against Feit. Once again, the case went cold. But in 2014, newly elected District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez reexamined the case and went out and secured an indictment from the grand jury.
Shortly afterward, Feit, who is now living in Arizona, was arraigned and charged with first-degree murder in Maricopa County. Feit is fighting extradition to Texas and is currently in jail in lieu of $750,000 bail. Both Garza’s family members and Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez are looking forward to finally getting justice for Irene Garza. Sometimes, the wheels of justice turn slowly.