EDINBURG – A total of seven witnesses took the stand in the trial of a former priest accused of killing a McAllen woman in Apr. 1960.
There were a few tense exchanges Friday between the attorneys in this case, but there were also a few light-hearted moments.
Day two of John Feit’s murder trial brought two women, who were in their early 20’s around the time of Irene Garza’s death, to take the stand Friday.
Both claim to have encountered Feit.
Beatrice Garcia said Feit asked to photograph her at a cemetery.
“He said I would love to take a picture of you in black by the cemetery, that is him right there,” testified Garcia while pointing at a photo of a young Feit displayed in court.
The next woman to testify was Cleotilde “Tilly” Sanchez. She met Feit while working as a secretary at a Catholic church in Edinburg.
Irene Garza’s cousins were also in court. They watched as an evidence technician from the McAllen Police Department showed the jury items collected from the crime scene of Garza’s: her purse, clothes and undergarments, including a yellowed petticoat.
Another witness who took the stand was a lifelong friend of Garza’s.
Ana Maria Hollingsworth met Garza when they were both eight years old and shared a long friendship.
On the stand, Hollingsworth testified that Garza came to visit her during Holy Week and spoke to her about a new priest at the church. Garza thought he was very handsome.
Hollingsworth stated to the court that Garza told her the priest would pull Irene out of confession, identifying the priest as Feit.
“She said ‘it’s not the same going to confession anymore because I don’t get to stay in the confessional. He comes to pull me out and says oh this place isn’t good enough for you, let’s go to the rectory, where you’ll be more comfortable.’ And then they walk off and go to the rectory,” said Hollingsworth.
Defense attorney Rene Flores tried to keep the testimony from the jury, claiming its hearsay.
The jury was even asked to leave the courtroom while a decision about Hollingsworth’s testimony was made.
Prosecutor Michael Garza argued Hollingsworth’s testimony shows Irene’s state of mind at the time of their conversation.
Judge Luis Singleterry ultimately ruled to allow Hollingsworth to testify before the jury.
Also on the stand, Kenneth Crawford, a retired forensic document examiner with the Department of Public Safety, who was tasked with examining and comparing handwriting notes the state has entered into evidence.
One of them, State Exhibit 91, was a handwritten note by Feit.
Crawford read the note to the court, “This viewer belongs to Fr. John Feit of San Juan, Texas. It was purchased in Port Isabel, Texas of 1959 at Freddy’s Professional Pharmacy. Texas – cash – price, I don’t remember, dated Apr. 29, 1960.”
That viewer finder was found in the same canal where Irene Garza was found dead.