On April 16, 1960, Irene Garza, a second grade teacher and beauty queen, left her parents’ McAllen, Texas, home where she lived and headed to Sacred Heart Church for confession. Garza, 25, would never come home. Thinking she stayed at church for midnight mass, Garza’s parents eventually contacted police around 3 a.m. and let them know their daughter was missing. Two days later, a passerby came across Garza’s purse, left shoe, and veil strewn over several hundred yards down a road. Garza’s body was finally located on April 21 in a canal, miles from the other evidence.
Garza died from suffocation. She’d been raped while unconscious and beaten. There was bruising over her eyes and on the right side of her face. Any DNA evidence seemed to have washed away due to the water in the canal. Suspicion in the case turned to a Sacred Heart priest John Feit. He heard her confession the day she disappeared. Other priests at the church noticed scratch marks on his hands after midnight mass. Feit also heard Garza’s confession in the rectory, which was unusual. Feit was given a polygraph test, which he reportedly passed. The results were later invalidated but he was not charged.
The case sat cold for decades. In the interim, Feit left the priesthood, got married, and had children. In 2002, two clergymen came forward and told police Feit confessed to murdering Garza. This still did not lead to an indictment. In 2016, Feit was finally arrested and charged with killing Garza. He was convicted on Dec. 7, 2016, at the age of 85, and sentenced to life in prison. Feit died of natural causes on Feb. 12, 2020.