Ex-priest to stand trial for 1960 murder of Texas beauty queen

A former Roman Catholic priest is due to stand trial this week on charges he beat, raped and strangled to death a Texas beauty queen nearly 60 years ago after hearing her last confession.

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A former Roman Catholic priest is due to stand trial this week on charges he beat, raped and strangled to death a Texas beauty queen nearly 60 years ago after hearing her last confession.

Irene
 Irene Garza 

Lawyers for John Feit, 84, have denied his responsibility for the 1960 murder of Irene Garza, 25, in McAllen, Texas, and said in court filings that he was wrongly accused of “one of the most notorious and heavily publicized crimes in the history of the Rio Grande Valley.”

Irene
 Irene Garza

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Tuesday and opening statements are expected on Thursday at a state district court in Hidalgo county in south Texas. The trial is likely to take about two weeks, county officials said on Monday.

Garza, a former Miss South Texas and second-grade school teacher, was last seen giving confession during Holy Week at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on April 16, 1960, according to the Texas Rangers cold case website.

Her body was found five days later in a nearby canal. An autopsy showed that Garza had been raped while comatose and died of suffocation. 

irene-garza-john-feit-cbs-48hours-beauty-queen-mcallen-texas-murder

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 Left- Irene Garza who was raped and murdered after giving her last confession to Feit-Right

Feit had initially been considered by authorities to be a suspect in the case but was not indicted. He had been implicated in the assault of another woman in the area a few weeks before Garza’s disappearance, but pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and served no jail time.

Shortly after Garza’s body was found, Feit was ordered by his church superiors to leave McAllen, the Dallas Morning News reported.

johnfeit
 Feit

Feit later left the priesthood and moved to Arizona, where he started a family.

Texas Rangers investigating cold cases reported in 2002 that a local priest had told them, shortly after Garza’s body was found, that he had seen scratches on the hands of Feit, who was a visiting priest at Sacred Heart Church at the time.

The local priest, Father Joseph O’Brien, also told investigators that Feit had confessed to the murder, law enforcement officials said. Feit has denied that.

Methodist Church Refuses to Hold Any Weddings until Same-Sex Marriage is Allowed

The denomination’s Book of Discipline, which governs the Methodist church, also says that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”  

An Austin church has voted to stop performing wedding ceremonies at the church until the Methodist church starts allowing same-sex weddings.

First United Methodist Church in Austin voted on Sept. 24 to temporarily stop wedding ceremonies. The congregation voted 93 percent in favor.

Taylor Fuerst, the church’s senior pastor, said he hopes the vote “will have a unifying effect on the congregation.”

“It communicates even more to our city that if you are in the LGBTQ community that you are not tolerated here, but embraced,” he said.

Currently, the Methodist church bans same-sex unions from being performed by pastors or taking place at Methodist churches. The denomination’s Book of Discipline, which governs the Methodist church, also says that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”   Congregations are not required to hold weddings.

“This vote demonstrates that our members are willing to sacrifice a position of privilege in order to stand in solidarity with those who are discriminated against,” said Davis Covin, who was on the Austin church’s discernment team. “I think this also serves as a great example to the children and youth in our church by showing that our members strive for social justice and equality for all God’s children.”

So far, 11 United Methodist churches have agreed to temporarily stop holding wedding ceremonies until the denomination lifts the ban on same-sex weddings.

[written by Amanda Casanova]