A Cover Up That Delayed Justice For A Murder Victim: Irene Garza, 1960.
I have just come across the case of a 25 year old woman who was destroyed by a Catholic priest. This happened in 1960. Irene Garza was an ex pageant queen who had become a school teacher. She was a devote a Christian and on the night she died she went to give confession.
The beautiful young lady attended Sacred Heart Catholic Church on 16th April 1960. This church was 12 blocks from her home in McAllen, Texas. There she met with a 27 year old priest in the rectory ( priest house) and he heard her confession. According to him she left and went into the church itself.
From that time on she was not seen.
Family informed the police and a search began, her shoe was found in a field, her purse elsewhere. After a few days her body was found in a canal.
The priest, John Feit, was under the spotlight at the time not least because a hand held slide projector was found near Ms Garza. The projector belonged to him and the flex had been used to bind her hands. The police interviewed him and took photographs, they showed clear scratches.
Then, it is alleged, came the manoeuvring. What I mean by that was cops were moved who were gunning for Father Feit and he was moved to a monastery. It is shuffle of people that we have seen so many times before. While at the monastery Feit was counselled for 6 months by a then monk called called Dale Tashney.
Later Tashney would testify against Feit. He said he was sorry he did not report Feit to authorities when he was told the details in 1963. He recalled he had not felt it was his place to do so. The implication is that he was ‘following orders.’ I wonder where we have heard that sort of excuse before?
It bothered Tashney though. In 2002 he contacted cops and told them what Feit had said. This included elements that show what a monster Feit was. He attacked Ms Garza in the rectory. He bound her and at one point wrapped her in cellophane. What she said to him after this is haunting. He told Tashney the young woman said:
‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.’
When Feit returned to where he had left her she was dead. Police believe she had been raped. It was then that he borrowed a car, disposed of her property and then finally her body.
Following Tashney’s letter a DA tried to indict Feit. That failed.
It took a until Hidalgo District Attorney, Ricardo Rodriguez was elected in 2014. He had said he would reopen the case. Finally there was movement.
In 2020 Feit died in prison where he had been since his conviction in 2016. He was 86 when what passed for a heart gave out.
It turned out that Feit had tried to assault another woman at a church not far from McAllen but she had fought him off. He then went on to kill Ms Garza weeks later. The incredible thing is in 1961 he was in court accused of the attack on the survivor. He faced being convicted for assault with intent to rape. The jury could not decide on a verdict. In the end he pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of aggravated assault.
So the church knew it had this man on its hands. They knew he had been the last person to see Ms Garza alive. They also knew he admitted the projector found near her body was his own. By 1961 they knew they had a dangerous man among them.
So a killer gets justice, it took a bit longer than it should so what is the big deal?
As you know, this website is primarily for unsolved murders. The big deal is this killing may have resulted in a conviction, but what on earth is wrong with our collective thinking?
Time and time again it happens. Crimes are committed, the details are known and yet there is a cover up. It is a huge unsolved for me. I don’t understand it. Why do humans cover for criminals when they have a clear moral duty to expose them?
Tashney said nothing for almost 40 years. 40 years he allowed a man capable of murdering women to walk the streets. He felt he couldn’t expose Feit because it was not his place to judge. I am paraphrasing his own words. Here is a direct quote.
‘I covered up the evidence,’ Tacheny told ’48 Hours.’ ‘I’m sorry for what I did.’
Tashney also says that the instruction he got from the church included a direct reference to Feit having killed a woman. In addition, an other priest called O’Brien is on record saying Feit had told him he had killed Ms Garza.
The humanists among us should not simply sneer at this and talk scathingly about church cover ups. There have been many on subjects like child abuse. Those with a distain for religion should look at the cases where none faith groups have done the same. Every group from covering up in a family to charities, to police departments, to social services to everywhere.
People seem to find themselves in a position they covert. Say for example a head of a social services department. They have a salary, a house, a family and a pension. Then they are given a hot potato. A person is implicated who might well push back. This social worker could be in for a rough time. They might lose some of the cozy elements of their life. So they cover it up and then appear to convince themselves in a way that sooths this corruption.
They say that covering up a crime allows the good work of the department to operate. It is a trade off of one or two victims for the good of more people in the future. Yet it is what it is. A cover up of crime is a betrayal of the ethics of the church, of the duty of care of government agencies. It makes the people covering up as bad as those that abuse kids or embezzle funds or kill the like of Irene Garza.
The unsolved element of this crime is, for me, why we do not start imprisoning those that cover up as much as we imprison the perpetrators of the crimes.
Take Care and don’t trust organisations. It has taken me decades to learn this. What an awful bunch of people were around this Feit back then. Their type are all around us now.
The below is a CBS article that has many evidence photographs on it from the original investigation.