In 1960, she went to confession and vanished. Now we know the priest murdered her.
For more than five decades, the black-and-white image of Irene Garza has haunted the town of McAllen, Tex., her story painfully recounted again and again.
She was a 25-year-old dark-haired former beauty queen, her high school’s first Latina drum majorette, the first in her family to graduate from college. She was named Miss All South Texas Sweetheart, and worked as a teacher for disadvantaged children.
But at the center of Garza’s life was her Catholic faith. In a letter to a friend in April 1960, she wrote about how she was no longer afraid of death. “You see, I’ve been going to communion and Mass daily and you can’t imagine the courage and faith and happiness it has given me,” she wrote in the letter, according to Texas Monthly.
And so when Holy Week came, the most sacred time of year for Catholics, Garza decided to go to confession.
On the eve of Easter, she drove to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen.
She never came home. Two days later . . .