Ex-priest enters not guilty plea in killing

EDINBURG — With the help of a walker and flanked by several sheriff’s deputies, 83-year-old former priest John Feit slowly entered a courtroom yesterday and faced a judge in connection with the 1960 rape and murder of Irene Garza.

Feit, who was making his first apearance in a Hidalgo County courtroom but was at his third court appearance since he was arrested in early February, stood in front of the judge and entered a plea of not guilty in the death of Garza.

Accompanied by Edinburg-based attorney O. Rene Flores, Feit was in court for a scheduled arraignment hearing in connection with the woman’s death.

Feit is accused in the April 1960 death of Garza, a schoolteacher and beauty queen who was last seen going to confession at McAllen’s Sacred Heart Church. Her body was found five days later after being dumped in a canal.

State prosecutor Michael Garza, no relation to the victim, suggested Feit’s bond be set at $750,000 but Flores, who attended Feit’s extradition hearing three weeks ago in Phoenix, said his client was not a flight risk and asked the court to set a bond of $100,000, citing Feit’s clean criminal record.

“We certainly disagree with the recommendation by the state,” Flores said. “This case is alleged to have occurred almost 60 years ago. Since the time that this incident was alleged, Mr. Feit has not had any arrests, felony, misdemeanors or otherwise.”

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