State, Defense Rest in the Murder Trial of John Feit
EDINBURG – The murder trial against an 84-year-old former priest could wrap up sooner than expected.
The trial of John Feit was expected to last two weeks, but after five days of testimony, the case is close to being in the hands of the jury.
At the start of the day, Judge Luis Singleterry issued his ruling on the defense’s request for a mistrial. He denied the motion.
The jury heard from the state’s final two witnesses Wednesday.
The first, a forensic pathologist for Hidalgo County, who reviewed the doctor’s medical records including a photo of Irene Garza’s body taken after her death.
The records were presented by Dr. Norma Jean Farley. She wasn’t in her position at the time Garza’s body was discovered, but she told the jurors she reviewed medical records, police reports and pictures.
Another witness the defense called on was Faustino Rodriguez. He and Garza were friends in high school.
Rodriguez told the jury he saw Garza at confession on the Saturday before Easter. His wife, he says, got mad at him for saying hello to her.
He claimed that Garza was in line for confession at about 8:30 p.m., contradicting the findings of the Texas Rangers.
Rodriguez had a hard time remembering much else. He didn’t remember about being interviewed by police or giving them a signed statement in 2002.
The last witness to testify was retired Texas Ranger, Rudy Jaramillo, who relaunched the investigation into Garza’s murder 42 years after she was killed.
The defense asked him about his findings during his 2002 investigation, specifically the last time anyone saw Garza at Sacred Heart Church.
“She arrived at the rectory about, pretty close to 7:05,” stated Jaramillo.
"Were you able to determine, more or less, through your investigation, the last time that somebody saw her alive?” asked the prosecution.
“Yes sir,” replied Jaramillo.
The prosecution asked, “At what time was that?”
“Around 8:00,” said Jaramillo.
Jaramillo explained the complications of retrieving DNA from the evidence collected years ago.
“The type of evidence that had been underwater for quite a long time, so they weren’t able to get any type of DNA from it,” stated Jaramillo to the court.
He said Feit had agreed to give him a DNA swab, but wouldn’t give him an official statement.
The defense questioned Jaramillo about how many priests were present at Sacred Heart Church the night Garza went missing. He said there were four.
Jaramillo interviewed one of them, Fr. Junius, in Mexico City.
In his report, he noted the priest seemed nervous and drank a lot of water during the interview.
Years later, Junius was found murdered.
During court, there was some uncertainty regarding Feit’s decision to testify in his own trial, but in the end, the defense called just one witness.
Feit decided not to testify.
After testimony from 22 witnesses and hundreds of pieces of items entered into evidence, the defense quickly claimed the state did not meet its burden of proof and asked the judge for a directed verdict. The judge denied.
Closing arguments are scheduled first thing Thursday morning.
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