“Retired priest denies role in 1960 slaying ” & related articles

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Relatives cry cover-up in 1960 murder of Texas beauty queen as the main suspect, a priest, has never been charged and continues to live comfortably

The Daily Mail Omline


By Daily Mail Reporter

The relatives of a beauty queen murdered in Texas in 1960 have said officials helped cover-up for a priest who has been a suspect in the murder since the initial investigation.

Former Miss South Texas, Irene Garza, was found lying in a canal in her hometown of McAllen after having disappeared the day before Easter. She had went to Sacred Heart Catholic Church to give confession to  Rev. John Feit.

Feit, a then-27-year-old, priest was immediately a suspect in Garza’s death because less than a month earlier her had found guilty of attacking another young woman at a nearby church. He did not serve any jail time and was fined $500.

Irene Garza
John Feit

Shocking crime: Irene Garza, who was Miss South Texas, was found dead lying in a canal in her hometown around Easter 1960. A Catholic priest who heard her final confession, Rev. John Feit, has been a person of interest but was never arrested


Grilled: Feit was questioned in Garza’s death but has never been charged. Her family believes local officials covered for him because of his religious title

But Feit was never arrested in the case and was quietly transferred to a monastery before leaving the priesthood in the late 1960s.

He continues to live a comfortable life in a affable neighborhood in Phoenix. He has steadfastly denied ever killing Garza in interrogations with police and interviews by the media, including CNN.

But after the case was reopened in 2002, two witnesses came forward to investigators to say Feit allegedly confessed to them.


Garza’s relatives have continued the fight to get justice for her, even more than 50 years after the crime

Lynda De La Vina, Garza’s cousin who was 9-years-old when the crime occurred, said it was unthinkable to accuse a priest of such a horrific crime.

‘We were accusing a priest that — in those days priests were infallible, ‘ said De La Vina.

Another cousin, Noemi Sigler, was only 10-years-old when Garza was killed.

‘It was impossible for a priest to do such a deed. I mean, if you thought of it, that would be sacrilegious.’

Sigler believes police protected Feit at the time because of his religious authority.

‘I don’t know whether it was out of respect for the church or anger or fear, I have no idea,’ she said.

Both cousins refused to let the case die even as Feit went to a monastery and the case grew cold. 


Garza’s cousins, Noemi Sigler, left, and Lynda De La Vina, were both children when she was murdered but continued to investigate the case on their own until it was reopened by authorities in 2002

When officials began their new investigation in 2002, two witnesses came forward to offer new evidence against Feit.

One priest, Joseph O’Brien said he worked with Feit at Sacred Heart and told Sigler that Feit confessed to the murder.

The other witness was Dale Tacheny, who served as a monk and was Feit’s spiritual adviser when he was in the Missouri monastery.

Tacheny said Feit confessed to killing a young woman around Easter.


Feit was immediately a suspect in Garza’s death because he had recently been arrested for assaulting another young woman at a nearby church

Feit said he offered to take the woman to the rectory, Tacheny said, where Feit allegedly sexually assaulted her, bound and gagged her, fondled her breasts, and put something over her head.

‘That’s what he did,’ said Tacheny, who said Feit more shocking details in his alleged confession.

The former monk said Feit told him he took Garza to a separate location, where he was living, and hid her there, bound, overnight.

Garza died the next when she apparently suffocated.


This is Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas where Feit worked when Garza was murdered

He asked Feit why he was living at a monastery and not in prison. ‘ “The church protected me, the people in the church, my superiors, protected me,” ‘ Tacheny quoted Feit as saying.

‘I believe he killed her,’ said Tacheny. ‘I had no doubt about it because he said he did.’

But the District Attorney,  Rene Guerra, chose not to arrest Feit because he did not find the two new witnesses credible.

It was another setback for De La Vina who has still vowed to not give up until there is justice for her cousin.


 Retired priest denies role in 1960 slaying


POSTED: 8:05 a.m. EDT, May 30, 2007

By Gary Tuchman


CNN’s Gary Tuchman questions retired priest John Feit in a Phoenix, Arizona, parking lot.

Story Highlights

• Police still consider Father John Feit a suspect in death of 25-year-old woman
• In 2002, two other priests said Feit confessed to them
• Texas grand jury declined to indict Feit

Editor’s note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences covering the news and analyze the stories behind events.

PHOENIX, Arizona (CNN) — It’s fair to say John Feit was surprised to see us.

We met the 74-year-old retired priest in a grocery store parking lot in Phoenix. We had some questions, and he isn’t the kind of person to grant interviews, at least not on the topic we wanted to talk about: Murder.

Specifically, we were interested in asking him about the slaying of Irene Garza, a crime that a Texas police department is convinced Feit committed. But Feit has not been charged, and he may never be.

In that Phoenix parking lot, I asked Feit if he murdered Garza.

“Interesting question,” Feit replied. “Answer is no.”

On the day before Easter 1960, Garza, a 25-year-old schoolteacher and former Miss All South Texas Sweetheart, went to a church in McAllen, Texas, for confession. Garza, the first Hispanic drum majorette at McAllen High School and the first college graduate in her family, was a devout Catholic. The priest who received her confession was Father John Feit.

Garza was not seen by her friends or family after leaving for the church. It was a major story in Texas when it happened. People were worried and scared. Then it got worse. Garza’s body was found in a canal.

Her death certificate stated she was raped, beaten on the head, and suffocated. The main suspect in her death back then was the same person police say is the main suspect today: Feit.

I asked Officer Juan Trevino of the McAllen police cold case squad if there’s any doubt in his mind that Feit committed this killing. “No,” he said.

Trevino said a lot of evidence points to Feit.

When Garza’s body was recovered, a 1950s vintage Kodak slide viewer was found near her body. Receipts showed the slide viewer was bought by Feit. The priest agreed to take lie detector tests. He failed them.

Interest in Feit intensified when police discovered that a few weeks before the slaying, Feit had been accused of attacking a woman in a church in a nearby city. The 20-year-old victim said she was leaning on the communion rail in the empty church when she was assaulted by Feit. He was arrested and charged but a mistrial was declared in that case. Feit did not go through a second trial. He pleaded no contest and was fined $500; he was given no prison time.

While waiting for resolution in the Garza case, Feit was sent to a monastery in Missouri where he got to know a monk named Dale Tachney. After 40 years of silence on the Garza case, Tachney, no longer a monk, made a startling statement in 2002.

“I was part of the cover-up for all these years,” Tachney said.

He said he was told by the head of the Assumption Abbey Monastery in Ava, Missouri, that Feit was a murderer and that it was his job to counsel him. He said that in 1963, Feit acknowledged to him that he suffocated Garza and disposed of her body.

“I asked him one time, ‘Why are you here and not in prison?’ And he said, ‘I was protected by the church authorities … I believe I was protected by the legal authorities,’ ” Tachney said.

Tachney said that after about six months of treatment, church authorities believed it was safe for Feit to leave the monastery in Missouri. That was the last time Tachney saw him. Tachney has cooperated with police since disclosing his information.

Also in 2002, a different priest, Father Joseph O’Brien, who used to be close friends with Feit, broke his silence, telling police he believed Feit killed Garza.

Police reopened the murder case after Tachney and O’Brien told their stories.

District Attorney Rene Guerra was initially hesitant to bring the case before a grand jury, but after a public outcry, he called a grand jury in 2003.

His presentation of the case proved controversial. Guerra decided not to ask Tachney or O’Brien to testify. Instead, he played tapes of interviews they did with police. He also did not request that Feit testify. The district attorney said he has not been interested in talking to Feit.

“If I make him a target,” Guerra told me, “he’s got the right to tell me go to hell.”

In 2004, the grand jury decided not to indict Feit. Just over a year later, O’Brien died.

Garza’s family is angry at what they regard as a halfhearted prosecution effort. Garza’s first cousin, Lynda de la Vina, believes the local Catholic Church has been holding up Feit’s prosecution all these years.

“I still believe fundamentally it’s because it’s a church issue,” de la Vina said. The district attorney said the church has nothing to do with how he has handled the case.

Back in that Phoenix parking lot, I ask Feit what he thinks of the former monk’s claim that he admitted to Garza’s murder.

“I think he’s demented,” Feit said.

And what about the claims of O’Brien, his old friend?

Feit gave his answer in Latin. When asked for the translation, Feit said, “Look it up.” The translation, we later found, is “Only speak good of the dead.”

Before we said goodbye to Feit, I ask him one final question: “This family has suffered for almost five decades. Anything you want to say to the family?”

Feit wasn’t interested in answering that question. He put his groceries in his car and slammed the trunk in anger. The interview was over.

8 Responses to “Retired priest denies role in 1960 slaying ” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    There was a documentary on this on CNN last evening. I don’t recall the title, but it was well done and certainly raised many questions.

  2. trudy says:

    how does anyone have faith in the catholic church
    should close the catholic church if you are a priest you get away with murder and molestation

  3. JG says:

    “I asked him one time, ‘Why are you here and not in prison?’ And he said, ‘I was protected by the church authorities … I believe I was protected by the legal authorities,’ ” Tachney said.

    That is why not much changes very fast. That is what they(church insiders) believe, that is what we should believe. Nothing but misplaced respect or misplaced fear has allowed rape, murder, abuse to be ignored for so long. Not only in Texas.
    A worldwide “cooperation” or “intimidation” by the church??


  4. Sylvia C says:

    God knows what you have done, Feit. God will deal with you.

  5. mary says:

    How awful that Mr. Feit lived freely just because of the status of being a priest. He is forever a criminal. God will deal with him when he dies and he is sure going to enjoy hell when he leaves this earth since he killed the woman in 1960 at church in Texas. The family was unhappy for a long time. He is to be held accountable for that.

  6. jg says:

    The CBS evening news on 27th January , “48 Hours”, has the ending to this story and Feit was convicted to life in prison, Guilty verdict was the 07 December 2017.

    One witness was a Trappist monk in Wisconsin who was asked to counsel a priest “who had murdered a woman” and was to be screened to possibly become a monk…This was in 1963 and the monk acted on his conscience in early 2000.
    This poor girl was sacrificed to “protect the church”…and this is not/has not been happening only in Texas!
    It is necessary to know the truth if we are to move forward at all.
    Her name was Irene GARZA and her sacrifice should be remembered.

  7. jg says:

    In post above, not in “Wisconsin” but in Ava, Missouri, the Assumption Abbey.

  8. Sylvia says:

    Yes jg. I watched 48 Hours as well. I recall reading about this years ago -good to see charges were finally laid and it went to trial. For those who missed it, click on this link to 48 Hours for 2016 full story of “The Last Confession.”

    and click here for 27 January 2018 report “Inside the trial of former priest charged with 1960 murder of Texas school teacher.”

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