Ex-Priest Who Killed Beauty Queen Dies in Prison

John Feit was sentenced to life in late 2017 for the death of Irene Garza
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2020 5:15 PM CST
Ex-Priest Who Killed Beauty Queen Dies in Prison
In this Dec. 6, 2017 file photo, John Bernard Feit leaves the 92nd state District Court in Feit's trial for the 1960 murder of Irene Garza at the Hidalgo County Courthouse in Edinburg, Texas.   (Nathan Lambrecht/The Monitor via AP File)

Fifty-seven years after the 1960 death of a 25-year-old beauty queen, a former priest went on trial for her murder. John Feit was convicted and in late 2017 sentenced to life—a sentence whose term ended up being just over two years. "Offender Feit was pronounced dead at 5:38am Tuesday at Huntsville Hospital" of cardiac arrest after having been found unresponsive in his cell, said the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Feit had been a suspect in Irene Garza's death from the get-go: She was last seen heading for Easter weekend confession at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen; her body was found five days later. Feit admitted hearing her confession but denied involvement in her death.

Evidence linking him to Garza's murder—specifically Feit's portable photographic slide viewer, which USA Today reports was found near the one-time Miss All-Texas Sweetheart's body—was found early on in the case. It wasn't until decades later that a former monk who was at a Trappist monastery with Feit in the 1960s said Feit had confessed to killing Garza, who was beaten, sexually assaulted, suffocated, and dumped in a canal. CBS News reports that former monk, Dale Tacheny, ended up being a "star witness" for prosecutors. By the time of his trial Feit had long since left the priesthood: He exited it in 1972, married and had three children, and lived in Phoenix until his 2016 arrest. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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