Former priest charged in 1960 slaying of Texas beauty queen

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A native Chicagoan and former Roman Catholic priest is now charged with killing a beauty queen in 1960, right after he heard her confession. (WLS)

A former Roman Catholic priest is now charged with killing a beauty queen in 1960, right after he heard her confession.

John Feit is from Chicago and speaks with an Irish-tinged accent. He became a Catholic priest, and in 1960 he visited a parish in McAllen, Texas. He helping out on a busy Easter weekend when Irene Garza, 25, came in for confession. That was the last time she was seen alive.

Fifty-six years later, the former priest is charged with her murder. Feit appeared in court Wednesday in Phoenix, where he had been living and was arrested.

Feit is accused of killing Irene Garza - Miss South Texas at the time - whose body was found in a McAllen irrigation canal. Father Feit was considered a prime suspect in the case. He left the priesthood in 1971 and returned to his native Chicago.

During the decades, authorities periodically revisited the murder investigation and Feit, but never had the evidence to charge him.

He maintained to police and reporters over the years that he didn't do it, claiming he saw Garza leave the rectory after he heard her confession and that the last time he saw her, she was standing outside the church.

An autopsy determined Garza had been raped and then had died from suffocation. Near her body, investigators found items that belonged to the church, including a candelabra.

Feit's bond was set at $750,000 on Wednesday. In court, he seemed confused and said the murder charge didn't make sense and that he's puzzled because the killing occurred so long ago.

"I'm totally puzzled why something is coming up now, after the fact. My instinct is telling me to fight extradition," Feit said.

Under the law, there is no limit on how long after a murder someone may be charged. This should have been no surprise to Feit, as he's been questioned repeatedly over the years, been swabbed for DNA and took two lie detector tests - including one in Chicago that detectives say he flunked.

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