All eyes on county as decades-old case finally set for trial

By Lorenzo Zazueta-Castro, November 27, 2017, The Monitor

EDINBURG — The nearly 60-year saga in the death of a schoolteacher and beauty queen is expected to reach its conclusion by the end of the year as the former priest accused with her murder finally faces a jury.

This time around the hyper-local media coverage and focus will be accompanied by a national media presence, with outlets like CBS’ “48 Hours,” and CNN, expected to cover the trial gavel-to-gavel as jury selection begins today.

From the time the Hidalgo County District Attorney, who ran a campaign two years earlier in part on “getting justice” for the slain woman’s family, announced in February 2016 that a grand jury had declared there was enough evidence to charge former priest John Bernard Feit with the 1960 murder of Irene Garza, the media coverage of the decades-old case went into overdrive.

Such is expected as the beginning of Feit’s long-awaited trial is set to begin this week with jury selection and the beginning of opening arguments set for the end of the week.

The mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder of Garza, a 20-something McAllen schoolteacher who went missing just before a religious holiday weekend in April 1960 and found dead five days later near where she was last seen, has piqued the interest of not only locals who grew up recounting anecdotal stories and details of what transpired the night she went missing, but also the interest of a national audience.

In 1960, the 25-year-old schoolteacher went to visit Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, where she had planned to attend confession during Holy Week only to never be seen again. Her body was found in a canal several days later and although authorities initiated a large-scale manhunt for the woman’s killer — they were unable to arrest anyone in connection with her death.

Feit, now 84, worked as a visiting Catholic priest in the Rio Grande Valley in the early 1960s — and had been questioned by authorities in the young woman’s disappearance, but ultimately at the urging of local Catholic church officials authorities were steered away from Feit, and eventually, they ruled him out as a suspect and never questioned him again.

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