Ex-Priest Arrested in Decades-Old TX Beauty Queen Murder

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on February 22, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The reason reality television got so much traction is because truth is stranger than fiction. This is best evidenced by reading crime news, stories like this month's arrest in Arizona of a Texas priest for the murder of a beauty queen half a century ago, reported by the Associated Press.

John Feit, the ex-priest who more than 55 years ago took the final confession of a Texas schoolteacher and beauty queen, 25-year-old Irene Garza, has long been suspected of murder. But efforts to indict him have failed before. Reports are unclear on what new evidence led to the priest's arrest now. But Feit, 83 years old, says he plans to fight extradition to Texas.

Feit in Court

Feit appeared in court, reportedly using a walker and looking very frail. He is being held for extradition to Texas, where an unsolved murder has haunted the city of McAllen for 56 years. "This whole thing makes no sense to me because the crime in question took place in 1960," Feit told the court.

Although Texas prosecutors would not reveal what additional information was found allowing for an arrest now, they sounded confident that closure is forthcoming. "The arrest of John Feit ... is the first step in providing justice for the murder of Ms. Irene Garza. After nearly 56 years, Ms. Garza's family and our community will finally see that justice is served," Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said in a statement..

Feit admitted that he saw Garza -- Miss All South Texas Sweetheart 1958 -- before her death and that he took her confession. But he has always denied killing her. Garza's bludgeoned body was found in an irrigation canal days after her death. She had been raped.

Too Long for a Trial?

Although Feit expressed his wonderment that the case continues, there is no statute of limitations for murder in Texas or elsewhere. Many crimes cannot be charged after a certain amount of time has passed, but murder is an exception.

Feit left the priesthood in 1972 and married. He worked for Catholic charity St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix, Arizona for a while, said executive director Steve Zabilski. He said he was shocked by Feit's arrest "because John is one of the most kind and caring and truly compassionate people that I've ever met. And anyone would say that."

But two priests in Texas have said that he confessed to the crime. And there is physical evidence linking Feit to the murder, so he may yet finish his days in prison after allegedly evading it all this time.

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