The Last Confession

"48 Hours" investigates the case of Irene Garza -- a young Texas beauty who went to confession in 1960 and was never seen alive again -- and the priest suspected of her murder

Produced by Lourdes Aguiar, Peter Shaw and Jennifer Simpson Ashmawy

[This story first aired on March 1, 2014. It was updated on July 26.]

It's been more than 50 years, but the shadow of the unsolved murder of Irene Garza still hangs over McAllen, Texas.

"This was an atrocious case," Noemi Ponce Sigler told "48 Hours" correspondent Richard Schlesinger. "And I couldn't understand it. To this day, I can't understand it."

Sigler, who is part of Irene's extended family, has never been able to forget this case -- especially after she visited her aunt's house several years ago.

"There was a portrait of Irene that I hadn't looked at in years," Sigler said. "So, I went up to the picture and I was mesmerized... And that's when I said ... 'Irene where did you go?' ... I wanna know what happened to her."

irene-garza.jpg
Irene Garza
Lynda de la Viña
Searching for an answer meant Sigler would have to search her own memories from around the time Irene vanished in 1960, when Sigler was a young child.

Asked how she felt about Irene, Sigler told Schlesinger, "I remember that she stood out...she was elegant."

Irene was crowned homecoming queen and given the title Miss All South Texas Sweetheart. At the time, it was almost unheard of for a Mexican American.

Irene's cousin, Lynda de la Viña says Irene was the first in her family to go to college and graduate school. Irene became a second-grade teacher and was devoted to her students.

"Oftentimes she would use part of her salary to ... buy them school supplies, to buy them things that they needed," she explained.

Lynda de la Viña was just 9 years old that Easter weekend in 1960. She still remembers the last time she talked to Irene.

"One of the things that she talked about was that she has Easter baskets for us. And my brother and I were excited and jumping up and down, 'cause we knew that she would not have forgotten us," she said.

But before Easter Sunday, Irene had to go to confession. The church had always been a cornerstone of her life.

"Every Sunday she'd go to church?" Schlesinger asked.

"Every Sunday. Every Saturday she'd go to confession," de la Viña recalled with a laugh. "It was a little bit of a family thing ... 'Irene's going to confession whether she needs it or not' (laughs)."

That Saturday, April 16, 1960, Irene Garza, who was just 25, borrowed the family car and went to Sacred Heart Church. She did not go unnoticed, but she rarely did.

"One person told me that sometimes guys her age would actually go to church just hoping to see her or run into her, said Texas Monthly magazine reporter Pam Colloff.

Colloff, a "48 Hours" consultant, has long been fascinated by the case. She spoke to many witnesses -- several of whom have since died.

"...when she went to church that night, it was natural that a lot of people noticed that she was there," she said.

But Irene never came home.

"We got a phone call ... Irene's missing," said de la Viña.

"Her car was found the next morning down the street from the church," said Colloff.

For two days, there was no news. Then, there was bad news.

"One of her high-heeled shoes was found by the side of the road," said Colloff.

Just up the road, Irene's patent leather purse was found, as well as a piece of her white lace veil.

"My first thought as a kid that is trying to put the pieces together and then realizing 'This is something really, really bad,'" said de la Viña .

A massive search followed. The Hidalgo County Sheriff's Posse, many on horseback, fanned out looking for Irene. One of them was Sigler's father.

"That man wouldn't even sleep trying to find Irene," she said.

But then five days after she disappeared, Irene Garza's body was found floating in an irrigation canal. She was fully dressed, except for her shoes and underwear, and her blouse was unbuttoned.

"The autopsy determined that she had been hit with a blunt object and then suffocated. It also found that she's been raped while in a coma," said Colloff.

Investigators had very little to go on. There were no eyewitnesses, no fingerprints and DNA analysis was still decades away. But when detectives drained the canal a couple of weeks later, they found a curious clue.

feit-slide-viewer.jpg
When police drained the canal at the end of April 1960, they found a green slide viewer near where they believe Irene Garza's killer had dumped her body.
Police file

"They found a green slide viewer with a long black cord ... a cord that may have been used perhaps to bind her hands or something along those lines," Colloff explained.

The police turned to the public asking them for help in identifying the owner.

"Two days after that, a young priest at Sacred Heart, Father John Feit, wrote the police a note that that was, in fact, his slide viewer and he had purchased it the year before in a nearby town," Colloff continued.

Father John Feit was a 27-year-old visiting priest and one of the last people to see Irene Garza alive. His note about the slide viewer did not explain how it wound up in the canal.

"Do you remember how long after your father became active in the investigation did he begin to suspect Father Feit?" Schlesinger asked Sigler.

"I'll step out on a limb and say the first day ... there was something very obvious there," she replied.

The police questioned hundreds of people, but focused on Father Feit. He gave police different stories about where Irene gave her confession that night, but finally said he heard it in the rectory next to the church.

"Which was a highly unusual and inappropriate thing to do," said Colloff.

Father Feit also said that during confessions, he had broken his glasses.

"And that because of that, he had driven five miles back to this priest residence where he lived to get his other pair of glasses," said Colloff.

Another priest, Father Joseph O'Brien, told police he noticed Father Feit had scratches on his hands. Feit explained he got them because he was locked out of the residence.

"He had no key, so he scaled his way up to the second floor," Colloff explained. "...in the course of doing so, scraped his hands up, and got his glasses and returned to the church."

Father Feit continued to be the focus of the investigation, but police kept their suspicions to themselves. Behind closed doors, the people of McAllen began whispering about the priest.

"It was almost a sacrilegious thought to have," said Colloff, "that a priest could be capable of something like this."

But the secret was about to come out. Because new suspicions landed Father John Feit on page one of the local papers.

"He attacked a woman 23 days before," said Sigler.

A $500 Fine

"Families don't recover from this," said Lynda de la Viña . "They certainly tried ... I'm not sure if they ever did."

Irene Garza's family had to deal with more than her murder. They had to absorb the fact that the rumored suspect was a man of God.

"That's not supposed to happen. That's horrible. That's an insult," said Sigler.

But it was beginning to look like it was true when they learned there had been another attack on another young woman in another church.

"Three weeks before Irene's disappearance ... another pretty young woman, Maria America Guerra, had gone into the Sacred Heart Church in Edinburg, which is a neighboring town ... and she had noticed a man in a blue and white car outside the church who was sort of watching her," Colloff explained. "And while she was kneeling at the communion rail, this same man came up behind her, grabbed her and tried to put a rag over her mouth."

maria-guerra.jpg
Three weeks before Irene Garza's murder, Maria America Guerra (pictured) fought off an attack from a man she thought looked like a priest inside a church in Edinburg, Texas.
Corbis

Maria America Guerra fought off her attacker and escaped. But she got a good look at him.

"She later said it was a man with dark hair, horn-rimmed glasses who was dressed like the priest...she couldn't say if he was a priest or not but ... he seemed to be a priest," said Colloff.

A couple of weeks after Irene Garza was murdered, Maria America Guerra was shown a police lineup and she picked out Father John Feit as her attacker. Now Father Feit was at the center of two cases. He was polygraphed by the premier lie detector firm in the country, which concluded Feit was not telling the truth.

"It was shown that Father Feit was trying to control his breathing ... and was even saying things like--'There won't be any more--evidence that comes out and what you have isn't enough to convict me,'" said Colloff.

Father Feit was indicted for attempting to rape Maria America Guerra and stood trial in 1961. But the jury deadlocked. Rather than face another trial, Feit pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of aggravated assault. His punishment? A $500 fine.

But Maria America Guerra got more justice than Irene Garza did. No murder charge was filed against Father Feit and Noemi Ponce Sigler is sure she knows why.

"I came upon a scene that has stayed like engraved in my mind," she told Schlesinger.

During the investigation into Irene Garza's murder, a young Noemi says she came upon her normally stoic father, a deputy sheriff, in the kitchen.

"I saw him sittin' in a chair with a white handkerchief, and he was crying," she recalled.

Asked what he was crying about, Sigler told Schlesinger, "Later I found out that -- my daddy had been asked to -- turn in his records ... of the investigation of the case."

That's when Sigler says she learned her father had been ordered to stop investigating -- that his superiors said they would take over the case. Many in Irene's family suspected that some kind of agreement had been made between the church and the authorities, but there was no hard evidence of that.

"There's no concrete proof of that. No documentation. What we do know is that Father O'Brien went and visited with Irene Garza's parents," said Colloff.

Father O'Brien was the priest who noticed those scratches on Father Feit's hands.

"And Father O'Brien ... told Irene's parents that if the church found that Father Feit had done this that he would face a far greater punishment from the church than anything that the courts could ever give him," said Colloff.

"The church tried to placate them saying ... "Even if it is him, we're gonna take care of him," said de la Viña .

"What do you mean take care of him?" Schlesinger asked.

"Well, you know ... that he would find justice within the church, if it was him," she replied.

Father Feit soon disappeared from McAllen, ending up in various monasteries. Irene's family had to settle for that.

"Was that enough for them?" Schlesinger asked de la Viña .

"I don't believe it ever was," she replied.

Sigler says her father never got over the case. Although she says he never lost his faith, he never looked at priests the same way again. He felt so strongly that no Catholic priest was called for last rites, years later on his deathbed.

"It must have been something that touched his soul, not only his heart, his soul," said Sigler.

"That's what's pushed you all these years?" Schlesinger asked.

"When I wanna give up," she said with a laugh, "it's all I have to think about."

Decades after Irene's murder, Sigler, the daughter of the deputy, started her own investigation, trying to turn up the heat on the now very cold case. She interviewed witnesses and collected every document she could find.

"How much of your time did this take?" Schlesinger asked.

"Well, I've done it over a span of probably two decades," Sigler replied.

She always stayed in touch with the McAllen police.

"I would tell 'em, 'This is what I've found.' And they would say, 'Oh, OK, of course.'" she explained. "I thought I--I was the lone ranger out there (smiles) I really did."

But she didn't know that the Texas Rangers were also on the case. In 2002, McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez asked the Rangers' newly- formed cold case unit to look into Irene's murder.

"Was there more than one serious suspect in this murder?" Schlesinger asked Rodriguez.

"No. The evidence has not pointed towards anyone else," he replied.

Texas Ranger Rudy Jaramillo was leading the new investigation.

"You have -- victims' families that are looking for answers, looking for closure," he said.

"Did this seem to you to be a case that you could solve at the-- at the beginning?" Schlesinger asked.

"Yes, sir. We felt that there was still physical evidence. We wanted to see what we could do now with today's technology," said Jaramillo.

irene28.jpg
The blouse and skirt Irene Garza was wearing when she disappeared.
CBS News

Jaramillo ordered DNA testing on the clothes Irene was wearing when she was murdered. But Irene's body had been in the water for too long; no DNA was discovered. Ranger Jaramillo had nothing to hang his hat on until one man came forward.

"He assaulted her, bound her and gagged her," said Dale Tacheny.

A Break in the Case?

In the fall of 2002, Texas Ranger Rudy Jaramillo of the cold case unit was continuing to work on the Irene Garza murder -- but it was still, at best, just a circumstantial case.

"We didn't have any witnesses that actually heard it from the suspect himself," said Jaramillo.

But what Jaramillo didn't know was that there had already been a potential break in this case. George Saidler was a detective in the San Antonio Police Department.

"I got a call -- from a man who identified himself as a retired monk," said Saidler.

"Do you get many phone calls from retired monks in your line of work?" Schlesinger asked.

"This was my first," Saidler replied with a smile.

In the phone call and later in a letter, the former monk told Saidler he had information about the suffocation of an unnamed young woman that he believed took place around Easter sometime in the early 60s ... not in McAllen, but in San Antonio.

"He said it involved a priest ... that confessed to him as part of a therapy session," Saidler explained.

The priest's name? John Feit.

"He had so much detail to his letter," Saidler continued. "If it was a true letter, I would be able to corroborate that letter with physical evidence."

But that would be impossible for Saidler, because the former monk had given him the wrong city.

"I probably looked at some 200 to 300 cases," he said.

Then a Texas Ranger visited Saidler and saw his list of cases -- including one labeled "priest case".

"He told me, 'Oh, you have a priest case?' One of my partners is working on a priest case also,'" said Saidler.

"And my lieutenant calls me, he says, 'You need to get a hold of this Detective Saidler. And here's his number....you got a witness," said Jaramillo.

Saidler and Jaramillo had never met even, even though it turned out they lived in the same small town of Lavernia, Texas. They compared notes and concluded that even though the former monk didn't know the victim's name, said the murder took place in the wrong city and wasn't sure of the year -- all the other details he provided made them certain they had been working the same case.

"That's almost spooky, the coincidence. What did you make of that?" Schlesinger asked Jaramillo.

"I almost thought Irene was sending him in my direction, you know?" he replied with a smile.

"That Irene was," said Schlesinger.

"Yeah," Jaramillo said. "I've never felt that way before. But -- it just seemed like we -- I was getting help."

The new witness -- the former monk -- was Dale Tacheny. Today, Tacheny counsels clients with tax problems in Oklahoma City, but back in the early '60s, he counseled Trappist monks at the Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri.

Tacheny says in 1963, his superior - who has since died -- told him about a young priest named John Feit who had just arrived at the monastery.

"I was told ... that he had killed a woman. And then asked if we could see if he would fit in at the monastery and possibly become a monk," said Tacheny.

"A murderer become a monk? Did that seem odd to you?" Schlesinger asked.

"To me, yes," he replied.

Tacheny says in months of counseling sessions, Feit told him how on an Easter weekend he heard a woman's confession in the rectory and attacked her.

"...after confession he took her blouse off. He fondled her breasts and then after that, he took her down to the basement and somehow she remained in the basement. I assume that he tied her up down there," Tacheny explained.

Tacheny says Father Feit told him he later moved her from the rectory to another location.

"...the next day when he had to go back to the church for masses, Easter Sunday I believe it was ... and he put her in the bathroom, put her in the tub ... put her in a bag or something over her head..." Tacheny continued.

"Some type of a plastic bag?" Schlesinger asked.

"I don't fully remember. But when he was leaving he heard her say I can't breathe, I can't breathe and with that he shut the door and left," Tacheny replied. "When he came back, he opened the bathroom door and she was dead. And then with the body he dumped the body along the road by a canal."

Despite hearing all this, Tacheny says he didn't call police because as a monk he was told (felt) his only job was to counsel the priest.

"Did you ask or did you wonder why he ended up in...the monastery and not in the penitentiary?" Schlesinger asked Tacheny.

"I asked Father Feit that, yes," Tachney replied. "He said that individuals in the church protected him ... because the scandal that it would be to the church if it was revealed that a priest had in fact committed murder."

Tacheny counseled Feit for several months until it became clear that Feit wouldn't make a good monk and couldn't stay at Assumption Abbey.

"You say goodbye to him," Schlesinger noted.

"Yes," said Tacheny.

"Sent him out the door? ...Knowing what you knew?"

"Yes," Tacheny replied.

"And you were comfortable with that decision at the time?"

"Yes," Tachney replied. "Buried as much as of it as I could."

But in 2001, when Tacheny was asked by an author if he could write about his life in the priesthood, he realized he shouldn't tell his story to a writer ... he should finally tell it to the police.

"So when you confronted this...in your soul, what did that feel like?" Schlesinger asked Tacheny.

"Well the problem for me was not so much that this happened ... It was terrible. But how about the parents now? Brothers, sisters?" he said choking up.

"It's emotional for you," Schlesinger noted. "Why are you weeping, sir?"

"It's hard for me to talk about that part of it," Tacheny replied, overcome with emotion.

"The part about the family?"

"Yeah and the pain that they went through for over 40 years. I could have solved it. Taken care of it," said Tacheny.

When Rudy Jaramillo heard Tacheny's story, he hoped that Feit was also ready to talk. He asked Tacheny to call Feit. Both men had left the priesthood decades earlier and hadn't spoken since 1963.

Dale Tacheny: Hello, John?

John Feit: Yes.

Dale Tacheny: This is Dale Tacheny.

John Feit: Da-aale!

The January 2003 conversation was recorded by Jaramillo:

Dale Tacheny: I've been, oh, for about 40 years now, covering up and holding within me something that I've known about and could never talk about.

Tacheny told Feit he wanted to clear his conscience about the death of a young woman, but Feit said he didn't remember any of their discussions:

John Feit: At the time I was in the monastery I was pretty much a broken man. Psychologically, emotionally, spiritually. I have no recollection what I may have told you at that time.

But Feit denied the accusations that have dogged him for decades:

John Feit: And I am telling you this evening that I am not the man who killed Irene Garza.

Dale Tacheny: I guess I'm very confused right now ... because you told me that you did in fact participate in the death of a young woman.

John Feit: Dale, I can only repeat myself and say I am not the man who killed Irene Garza.

But there was soon another witness, Father O'Brien, who would tell investigators that that's exactly who John Feit is.

An Untriable Case

Texas Ranger Rudy Jaramillo believed Dale Tacheny had answered most of his questions about how Irene Garza died. Jaramillo thinks the attack started at the church rectory.

"And what did Feit do to her do you think?" Schlesinger asked Jaramillo.

"He assaulted her, tied her up and took her to the basement," he replied.

Jaramillo is convinced Feit then took Irene late at night to the pastoral residence where he said he went looking for his spare eyeglasses and got those scratches on his hands.

"And what did he do to her here?" Schlesinger asked.

"She was bound and gagged and he put her in the bathtub... and he put a plastic bag over her head," said Jaramillo.

But Dale Tacheny was not Jaramillo's only witness. He had also tracked down Father O'Brien.

O'Brien told one story about the case on a local TV show in 2000:

"The only thing I can think of, looking back, I think maybe we focused too much on the church, and her friends ... that's all I can think of because I'm telling you that investigation was thorough!" O'Brien said in the TV interview.

But in 2002, he was now privately telling Jaramillo something else.

"He said he suspected John Feit ... having something to do with Irene being missing," said the Texas Ranger.

"He told you that 42 years later that that day he suspected John Feit," said Schlesinger.

"Right," said Jaramillo.

Father O'Brien told Jaramillo he thought the scratches on Feit's hands were fingernail scratches. In fact, O'Brien said he was so suspicious that he and another priest searched the rectory for Irene on Easter.

"...apparently looking for Irene, they searched everywhere...but they couldn't find any sign of her," sad Jaramillo.

O'Brien finally told Jaramillo that during a confrontation back in 1960, Feit had made a crucial admission.

"He said that -- he had killed Irene," said Jaramillo.

And O'Brien told Noemi Ponce Sigler the same thing in a phone call that she recorded:

Noemi Ponce Sigler: So he told also you sir that he had killed her?

Father Joseph O'Brien: Yes.

Noemi Ponce Sigler: Oh my God.

It was the news Irene Garza's family had always expected and always dreaded. And Father O'Brien also discussed what happened next:

Father O'Brien: We knew he was dangerous so we shipped him off to a Trappist monastery..."

"When you heard him say that, do you remember what you thought?" Schlesinger asked Sigler.

"Yeah. I felt like telling him ... so why in the heck didn't you do something about it?" she replied.

"48 Hours" contacted the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the order Feit and O'Brien belonged to at the time of the murder. The order strongly denies it protected Feit. Its lawyers say the order cooperated fully with police at the time and, they say, Father O'Brien wrote in a letter to his superior the year after the murder that church officials did nothing to hinder the investigation.

In 1960, the investigation may have gone nowhere, but in 2002, things started moving ahead -- especially after Father O'Brien corroborated several details of Tacheny's story.

"Did you think you had enough at this point to arrest John Feit?" Schlesinger asked Jaramillo.

"I did. ...I felt we had enough," he replied.

But Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra did not. He says this case might have been strong enough in the '60s.

"Do you think John Feit killed Irene Garza?" Schlesinger asked Guerra.

"Well, he would be a person that I would've prosecuted in '62," the D.A. replied.

But he says, today, the case is too old and too weak.

"If you want my honest opinion, it's untriable," said Guerra.

McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez says Guerra never wanted to take this case from the moment they reopened it in 2002.

"We basically got challenged to why we wanted to look at this case all over again," Chief Rodriguez explained. "What we got was almost a shut down."

Guerra remembers the conversation differently, but he still does not believe in this case or Dale Tacheny.

"You don't believe Feit ever confessed to him," Schlesinger noted.

"I don't believe so," said Guerra.

"Why would he make up this conversation?"

"I don't know," Guerra replied.

"What makes you think he did?"

"The fact that he had no specifics," said Guerra.

And Guerra questions Tacheny's integrity because he was ex-communicated for a time after getting married before officially leaving the priesthood.

"Are you telling the truth? Did you make this up?" Schlesinger asked Tachney.

"Number one, I'm telling the truth. Number two, I didn't make it up," he replied.

But the D.A. has another problem with Tacheny's story. Guerra says Tacheny was unintentionally fed details by Rudy Jaramillo.

"Could you have done that? Did you do that?" Schlesinger asked Jaramillo.

"No sir," he replied.

Jaramillo argues Tacheny gave details about the case to Detective Saidler months before Jaramillo even spoke to Tacheny. But Jaramillo did later tell Tacheny the correct location and date of the crime.

"I had to set him straight as to when it happened and where," said Jaramillo.

"And he should have kept it to himself and just sponged off Tacheny. Tell me what you know," Guerra said. "That's why I don't believe in Tacheny. It's a compilation of things that I don't believe in Tacheny."

And Guerra also has problems with Father O'Brien. He thinks his testimony might not be admissible because some conversations with a priest are privileged. And, he says when O'Brien came forward, he was suffering from a form of dementia that can makes people fabricate things.

"Is he - misunderstanding and fabricating in his mind - a story that he might have observed, he might have heard about, might have read about?" said Guerra.

But Jaramillo says O'Brien was clear on the facts of the case.

"He was pretty sharp," Jaramillo said. "His memory was remarkable."

Reporter Pam Colloff agrees. She also interviewed Father O'Brien in 2004.

"He told me he would say everything. If he were called before a grand jury he would say everything he knew," she said.

It could be damning testimony if John Feit ever has to face his accusers.

"When Pigs Fly"

"The evidence is there. It just speaks out to you," said Noemi Ponce Sigler. "Just present 'em to the grand jury ... and let the grand jury make a decision."

Decades after Irene Garza's murder, her family remained determined to get the case against John Feit moving forward. But Irene's cousin, Lynda de la Viña , says their biggest opponent was the district attorney, Rene Guerra.

"And I'll never forget, he put his finger in my -- in my face and said, you know, 'You will never get an indictment. You'll get one when pigs fly,'" said de la Viña .

But the family refused to back down. They organized a candlelight vigil outside the Hidalgo County Courthouse.

"All law enforcement was there. Family was there," de la Viña said. "We wanted the grand jury."

"You were turning up the heat on the D.A," said Schlesinger.

"Yup, sure," said de la Viña .

The family kept up the pressure and finally it looked like they won. Rene Guerra would finally bring the case to a grand jury.

Asked if she was surprised, de la Viña told Schlesinger, "I was surprised. But I was hopeful at that time that finally, maybe, he's actually doing something. ... something right here."

In March 2004, Guerra assigned two prosecutors to handle the case. But from the start, something didn't seem right to Irene's family. John Feit was never subpoenaed. And the two main witnesses, Dale Tacheny and Father O'Brien, were never called, either.

"Nobody got to see ... Father O'Brien, in his priestly suit, sitting in front of them, eye to eye, telling them, 'I was the pastor then. This is what I know he did.' That's huge," said de la Viña .

The grand jurors would only be given audio tapes and transcripts of what Father O'Brien and Dale Tacheny told investigators.

"I said, 'But don't you think a live person would've been much better at anytime than a damn recording?!" said Tachney.

"It's the call of a grand jury whether they wanna hear a witness or not," said Guerra.

"But Mr. Guerra, the charge has been made ... that you could've called them. ... And that you didn't do it in this case because you didn't wanna prosecute this case," Schlesinger pressed.

"No, that's -- well, I mean --" said Guerra.

"That's what Irene Garza's family's saying. That's what the police are saying."

"There -- there's some -- there's some interested parties that are saying that," said Guerra.

In June 2004, the grand jury declined to indict John Feit for the murder of Irene Garza.

TV report: "And the people who are not happy with this, have to settle with the fact that I am the District Attorney until someone defeats me in the next election," said Guerra.

And now, almost 10 years later, that's what Irene's family is trying to do.

This past August, Ricardo Rodriguez announced his candidacy for Hidalgo County District Attorney, taking on the 32-year incumbent Rene Guerra.

"Our current district attorney imparts justice on his arbitrary beliefs as when he tells someone that justice will be dispensed when pigs fly," Rodriguez addressed a crowd at a campaign event.

Guerra says the Garza case is being used unfairly by his political enemies, but he doesn't seem bothered by it.

"The People know what I stand for and if they see fit to vote me out of office, so be it. That's God's will," he told Schlesinger.

But the family knows they are facing another obstacle. Father O'Brien died in 2005. The last living witness is Dale Tacheny, and he's 85.

"We don't have much time," de la Viña lamented.

john-feit-current.jpg
John Feit left the priesthood in 1971. He is married with children and grandchildren and lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. He denies that he killed Irene Garza.
CBS News

As for Feit, he is now 81 and a grandfather living near other retirees in Scottsdale, Ariz. He didn't respond to "48 Hours"' requests for an interview. For years he worked at a Catholic charity, but is anything but charitable when pressed about the case.

In an angry confrontation, Feit tells Schlesinger he didn't kill Garza and does not know who did.

"Let me ask you straight out, did you kill Irene Garza?" Schlesinger asked Feit.

"No," the former priest replied.

"Do you know who did?"

"No," said Feit.

"Dale Tacheny says that you told him that you did..."

"Dale is full of sh--," Feit replied.

"I'm sorry?" Schlesinger asked.

"Dale is full of sh--," Feit exclaimed."S H - -".

"So you won't tell me anything?" asked Schlesinger.

"Get lost brother!" Feit yelled before slamming the door.

John Feit may have slammed the door on the past, but those closest to the case in Texas have not. Rudy Jaramillo still keeps a photo of Irene Garza in his office, even though he has retired from the Texas Rangers.

Noemi Ponce Sigler says she has tried many times to walk away, but something keeps pulling her back. One day at the cemetery, she believes she got a sign from Irene.

"I look up and there's this -- the biggest, beautifulest white dove you ever wanna see," she said.

"What did the dove mean to you?" Schlesinger asked.

"I think it was Irene's spirit. I really do," Sigler replied. She says she won't stop until John Feit faces judgment here on earth.

"He can't get away with this. He's not gonna get away with it,' Sigler said. "She needs to lay in peace. And we're gonna give it to her."

Rene Guerra lost the election for Hidalgo County District Attorney in March 2014.

District Attorney-elect Ricardo Rodriguez has promised to revisit the case when he takes office in January 2015.

  • Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"

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