A jury on Friday sentenced an 85-year-old former priest to life in prison for the 1960 killing of a schoolteacher and former beauty queen who was a member of the parish he served, the AP reports. The same jurors in Texas found John Feit guilty of murder Thursday night. Prosecutors asked jurors Friday for a 57-year prison term—one year for each year he had walked free since killing Irene Garza after she went to him for confession at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen. The 25-year-old Garza disappeared April 16, 1960. Her bludgeoned body was found days later. An autopsy revealed she had been raped while unconscious, and beaten and suffocated. Prosecutor Michael Garza, who is not related to the victim, said at a news conference that he wished that he could take credit for the conviction and sentence, "but it was God-driven."
Feit, then a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, came under suspicion in the investigation early on. He told police that he heard Garza's confession in the church rectory rather than in the confessional, but denied he had killed her. Among the evidence that pointed to Feit as a suspect over the years: Two priests told authorities that Feit had confessed to them. One of them said he saw scratches on Feit soon after Garza's disappearance. His portable photographic slide viewer was found near Garza's body. Feit had also been accused of attacking another young woman in a church in a nearby town just weeks before Garza's death. He pleaded no contest and was fined $500. Feit left the priesthood in 1972, married, and went on to work at the Catholic charity St. Vincent de Paul.