CBS ’48 Hours’ Episode Guide (Jan. 27): Priest Accused of Murdering a Woman on Easter Weekend

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CBS ’48 Hours’ Episode Guide (Jan. 27): Priest Accused of Murdering a Woman on Easter Weekend

“48 Hours: Sins of the Father” (01/27/18) – Nearly 60 years after Irene Garza disappeared after going to confession on Easter weekend, the priest accused of murdering her goes on trial – but is it too late? Richard Schlesinger and “48 Hours” report on the case against Father John Feit, the last man believed to have seen Garza alive, in “Sins of the Father” to be broadcast tonight, Jan. 27 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

For more than five years, “48 Hours” has been investigating this case of betrayal, a murder and an alleged cover-up that ends up in a Hidalgo County, Texas courtroom.

“There may be people who don’t understand why an old man is being prosecuted,” says Assistant District Attorney Mike Garza – no relation to the victim – about the now former priest. “But make no mistake. This is an evil man. He was a predator. He’s a wolf in priest’s clothing – looking to attack.”

The story starts in 1960 in McAllen, Texas, when Irene Garza, 25, told her family she was going to church for confession. She never returned. Five days later, her body was found dumped in a canal. Police say she was beaten, sexually assaulted and suffocated. Investigators questioned hundreds of people, but they kept turning to one person – Father Feit, then 27, who admitted hearing Garza’s last confession in the church rectory. Investigators only grew more suspicious when they learned that three weeks before Irene’s murder, another young woman, Maria America Guerra, had been attacked in a nearby church. That woman later identified Father Feit as her attacker.

Father Feit would eventually plead no contest to aggravated assault in the Guerra case and was fined $500, but the investigation in the Irene Garza murder eventually stopped and the case went cold. For decades, rumors swirled that there had been a conspiracy between the authorities and the Church to cover up the crime. The case was reopened in 2002 when the McAllen Police Department asked the Texas Rangers’ cold case unit to re-examine the murder. The investigation took a turn when a former monk, Dale Tacheny, told police that back in 1963 when he was counseling novice monks at a monastery, Feit had admitted to killing a young woman on Easter weekend. Another priest also came forward saying Feit had made a similar admission to him as well. Yet the former district attorney at the time, Rene Guerra, didn’t find the new witnesses credible and the case would go nowhere. Garza’s family felt they had been denied justice again. In 2014, when confronted by “48 Hours” about the allegations, Feit told Schlesinger he didn’t kill Garza and does not know who did.

Shortly after “48 Hours'” first broadcast on the case, “The Last Confession,” was presented in 2014, a new DA was elected who promised to look into the case. On Feb. 9, 2016, Feit was arrested in Scottsdale, Ariz. and charged with murder.

“The murder and its cover-up haunted the South Texas communities of McAllen and Edinburg, Texas, for over 50 years, and many rumors circulated as to why John Feit, a Catholic priest, was never charged despite strong evidence supporting his guilt,” Mike Garza says of “48 Hours'” previous reporting on the case. “48 HOURS was able to subtly infiltrate the small South Texas community and uncover the truth behind the murder of a young teacher named Irene Garza and some of the reasons the authorities refused to prosecute the priest who killed her. The program was instrumental in setting the background for why the case was never prosecuted, and it invigorated many to push harder in the pursuit of justice for Irene Garza.”

Feit’s attorney, Rene Flores, maintains there are no witnesses, no DNA evidence and no forensic evidence that ties his client to the murder of Irene Garza, and he also says Tachney’s claims are “bull—t.” Flores says there was never any conspiracy, just a lack of evidence in the case, and that’s why Feit was not prosecuted.

Schlesinger and “48 Hours” report the latest details, including evidence and testimony from witnesses that the prosecution says is evidence of the long-suspected cover-up, as well as reports of previous incidents Feit had with young women. Viewers are in the courtroom when the verdict is announced.

“It was a case worth losing. It was worth taking a risk,” says Garza. “It was a story that needed to be told.”

“48 Hours: Sins of the Father” is produced by Lourdes Aguiar, Ruth Chenetz and Josh Gaynor. Alicia Tejada is the field producer. Michael McHugh is the producer editor. Atticus Brady and Gary Winter are editors. Judy Tygard is the senior producer. Susan Zirinsky is the senior executive producer.

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