Ex-priest on trial for woman's 1960 slaying

Ex-priest on trial for woman's 1960 slaying
Posted at 5:09 AM, Dec 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-02 01:30:03-05

EDINBURG, TX (KRGV/CNN) - An 84-year-old former priest in on trial in Texas for a 1960 murder.

John Feit is accused of killing Irene Garza in McAllen in April of that year. He was a 27-year-old priest at the time, and she was a 25-year-old second-grade teacher. 

Their paths crossed on Easter weekend at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Prosecutors said Feit lured her into the rectory and killed her.

He entered the courtroom Thursday using a walker for the first day of the trial.

"Irene Garza went into a church trusting that her soul would be saved, but it was suffocated," said Michael Garza, Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorney.

Investigators found Irene Garza's body five days after she disappeared, in a canal. Investigators said she died from suffocation.

For years, Feit has denied killing Irene Garza, whose story has appeared in several TV special investigations, including one that aired on CNN.

It wasn't until 2014 that the case was reopened, WFAA reported. Feit, who left the priesthood decades ago, was arrested at his home in Phoenix, AZ.

It would take nearly 60 years for the case against Feit to land in front of a jury.

"You use that common sense in your heart, and I ask each one of you to open the eyes of your heart and find John Feit guilty of murder," Michael Garza said. 

"I disagree with Mr. Garza," said Rene Flores, the defense attorney. "The findings of facts you make may hurt your heart and while I, too, ask you to bring common sense into the courtroom, do not let your heart make those findings."

Former news anchor Darrel Davis testified about "off the record" conversations he had with the Hidalgo County district attorney at the time of Irene Garza's death.

"He said he knew that John Feit had committed the murder and the church knew he had committed the murder," Davis said.

In the courtroom, there were tears.

"I was there every day until they found her," said Sylvia Acevedo-Stern, Irene Garza's godsister. "It was just scary to know that someone you knew and that you loved had disappeared."

The trial continued Friday. Prosecutors expect to call witnesses until at least Tuesday.

Copyright 2017 KRGV via CNN. All rights reserved. Raycom News Network contributed to this report.