EDINBURG, Texas – A jury on Friday sentenced an 85-year-old former priest to life in prison for the 1960s and the killing of a school teacher and former beauty queen who was a member of the parish he served.
The same jurors in Hidalgo County in South Texas was John Bernard Feit guilty to murder on Thursday evening. The prosecutors asked judges Friday for a 57-year-old term of imprisonment of one year for each year that he had walked and because the killing of Irene Garza and after she went to him for confession at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas.
The 25-year-old Garza disappeared April 16, 1960. Her bludgeoned body was found days later. An autopsy revealed that she was raped while unconscious, and beaten and choked.
Prosecutor Michael Garza, who is not related to the victim, asked the jury not to the now older and weak Fact as it now is, but to try to imagine him as a 28-year-old man who is in a state of subjugation of the woman.
The jury deliberated just over four hours Friday before deciding on the maximum sentence. Then Garza said at a press conference that he wished that he could take credit for the conviction and the sentence, “but it was God driven.”
“I can say this: Pigs fly, and Irene peace,” he said.
Fact, is a priest of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, came under suspicion in the investigation early on. He told the police that he heard Garza’s confession in the church rectory, place in the confessional, but denied he had killed her.
When the evidence points to the Fact if a defendant over the years: Two priests told the authorities that Fact was known to them. One of them said that he saw scratches on the Fact soon after Garza’s disappearance. His portable photographic slide viewer was found near Garza’s body.
Fact was also accused of attacking another young woman in a church in a nearby city, just a few weeks before Garza’s death. He pleaded no contest and was fined $500.
Prosecutors presented evidence earlier in the week that the church and the elected officials suspicious Fact, but do not want to prosecute him. They were afraid that it is harmful for the reputation of the church and the Hidalgo County elected officials, most of whom were Catholic. Sen. John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, was running for president that year.
Fact is sent to a treatment center for troubled priests in New Mexico, and later became a supervisor with responsibility in the clearing of the priests for parish assignments. Among the men Fact helped in the ministry was a child molester James Porter, who attacked more than 100 victims before he was defrocked and sent to prison.
Feit left the priesthood in 1972, married and went to work at the Catholic charity St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix, the training and the recruitment of volunteers and the help of monitoring the charity’s network of food pantries.
Garza’s family members and friends had long pushed authorities to reopen the case, and it was a problem in the 2014 district attorney’s race. Ricardo Rodriguez had promised that if elected, he would re-examine the case.
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