Jury Hears Testimony from Police Chief, Former Detective, Former Monk in Feit Murder Trial
EDINBURG – Testimony continued in the murder trial of a former priest accused of killing a 25-year-old school teacher in 1960.
For the first half of Monday’s session, McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez took the stand. His department reopened the Irene Garza murder case in 2002.
Rodriguez read Feit’s police statement to the jury, paragraph by paragraph.
The former priest had been assigned to Sacred Heart Church in McAllen to help with Holy Week services in 1960.
On May 3, 1960, Feit told police that on Holy Saturday, Apr. 16, he was walking out of the rectory but went back inside to answer the phone. He said a young woman called asking to speak to someone and insisted it was important to talk to a priest, according to the document.
Rodriguez said Feit told police he waited for the woman to arrive at the rectory.
The police chief also read that Feit had stated he had never seen her before but described her as a young good-looking, light-skinned woman who spoke perfect English.
The report also states that Feit told police after speaking to her about a personal matter, he sent her to the church for confession assuring her that no one would overhear her in the confessional.
The police chief also read the second statement from Feit from June 1960 that differed from his initial statement.
In June 1960, he told police he himself heard the woman’s confession in the rectory.
Feit also talked about a meeting with Garza’s parents. They wanted to speak to the priest who heard her confession to find out if something was wrong.
Feit said he met with her parents and “I sent them home as quickly and quietly as possible.”
The report states that night Feit said he drove around aimlessly because he was disturbed by the talk with Garza’s parents.
“The dots are connecting to him. That is, Irene Garza having been with him," said Rodriguez. "The parents knowing she had been with him, and now that she’s missing, these things are getting very hot for him. So, he’s not basically concerned about the fact that this is coming down on him pretty quickly."
During cross-examination, Feits’s attorney was quick to point out that Rodriguez wasn’t part of the original investigation.
A former San Antonio detective explained to the jury how he received a call in 2002 from a former monk named Dale Tachney saying he had information on a homicide.
“Mr. Tachney had called me up and told he was aware of a homicide that had taken place in San Antonio in the early 60s. I spoke to him to try to get enough information from him to see if I could locate the homicide within our archives,” stated former detective George Saidler to the court.
Saidler didn’t have any cold cases in San Antonio that matched this information, but the Texas Rangers had a case very similar to it in McAllen.
Tachney, a former monk who counseled Feit before he left the priesthood in the 70s, is the person who may have re-ignited the cold case investigation.
He was a monk in Ava, Missouri and assigned to determine whether or not Feit was fit to become a monk.
Feit was sent to that monastery in Missouri in 1963 by the Catholic Church.
During several conversations, Tachney said Feit gave him details about killing a girl while he was in Texas.
He said Feit told him the girl went to confession, had fondled her, took her down to a basement and at one point put the girl in a bathtub. Tachney said while Feit was walking out the room, he heard her say “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” He added Feit told him he left her in the tub.
It wasn’t until after Tachney left the priesthood and was approached about writing the story of his life that he came forward with what Feit had confided in him during their time in the monastery. That’s when he said he knew he had to go to authorities with the truth.
The defense asked Tachney if it was in fact, the prospect of writing a book that pushed him to come forward. Tachney denied it.
He said his role as a priest only meant he needed to discern whether or not Feit was fit to be a monk, not to judge him for anything else.
The prosecution pressed with the same question, “Why wait so long to reveal the truth?”
Tachney replied with tears in his eyes, “She had a father, she had a father … can we please move on to something else?”
Feit has pled not guilty to murder.
On Tuesday, the state is expected to call two former priests who now testify as experts in criminal cases involving Catholic clergy.