In April 1960, the young school teacher and former Miss South Texas was found lying in a canal in her hometown of McAllen after having disappeared the day before Easter.
A devout Catholic, she had gone to Sacred Heart Catholic Church to give confession to Father John Feit, a bespectacled 27-year-old visiting priest.
Shocking crime: Irene Garza, who was Miss South Texas, was found dead lying in a canal in her hometown around Easter 1960. A Catholic priest who heard her final confession, Rev. John Feit, has been a person of interest but was never arrested
"Changed man": John Feit, 81, is now a grandfather who lives in a retiree community in Scottsdale, Arizona, Feit was immediately a suspect in Garza's death because 23 days earlier he had been found guilty of attacking another young woman at a nearby church. He did not serve any jail time and was fined $500.
When questioned by police, Feit offered various stories regarding his whereabouts on the night of the murder. Asked to explain the scratches on his hands, the 27-year-old said he got hurt while climbing into his home after getting himself locked out.
But Feit was never arrested in the Garza case and was quietly transferred to a monastery before leaving the priesthood in the late 1960s.
Garza's relatives, who have spent the last 50 years pressing the authorities to charge Feit with murder, believe that District Attorney Rene Guerra has been a part of a cover-up to keep the former clergyman out of prison.
Now a stooped, white-haired grandfather, Feit continues to live a comfortable life in an upscale neighborhood in Scottsdale, Arizona. He has vehemently denied ever killing Garza in interrogations with police and interviews by the media, including most recently CBS News' 48 Hours.
The Garza murder has become a political issue. The victim's family have emerged as supporters of Ricardo Rodriguez, a candidate for Hidalgo County District Attorney who will seek to unseat the 32-year incumbent 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 told a crowd of voters.
Grilled: Feit was questioned in Garza's death but has never been charged. Her family believes local officials covered for him because of his religious title. The aspiring district attorney was referring to a remark allegedly made by Guerra to Garza's cousin, Lynda De La Vina.
Recalling her encounter with the prosecutor, Miss De La Vina said: '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."'
Irene Garza, a brunette beauty crowned Miss All South Texas Sweetheart, was first in her family to graduate from high school and go to college.
Second victim: Three weeks before the tragedy, Maria America Guerra was attacked by a man inside a church; she later identified her assailant as Father Feit. The Mexican-American woman became a grade school teacher who often used her own money to buy supplies for her students.
The elegant, eye-catching woman was last seen alive heading to confession on the night of April 16, 1960. She never returned.
Her borrowed car was found the next morning near the church. Two days later, someone spotted Irene's leather purse, one of her high-heeled shoes and a piece of her white lace veil.
The alarming discoveries set off a massive search in the county, which ended five days after Garza's disappearance when her body was fished out of an irrigation canal.
The young woman was fully dressed, but her underwear was missing and the buttons on her blouse were undone.
The autopsy found that Garza had been struck with a blunt object and then suffocated. The medical examiner also determined that the 25-year-old woman had been raped while comatose.
Three weeks before the tragedy, Maria America Guerra was kneeling at the communion rail inside a church in neighboring Edinburg when a man in horn-rimmed glasses and priestly attire came up from behind, grabbed her and tried to gag her.
Guerra, however, was able to fight off her assailant and escape.
After Garza's murder, Guerra was shown Feit's photo in a lineup and recognized him as her attacker. But the priest escaped with only a light fine after the jury became deadlocked.
When the cold case was reopened in 2002, two witnesses came forward to investigators to say Feit allegedly confessed to them.
Tragic moment: Five days after her disappearance, Miss Garza's body was found in an irrigation canal; she was fully clothed buy missing underwear and with her blouse unbuttoned
De La Vina, who was 9-years-old when the crime occurred, said it was unthinkable to accuse a priest of such a horrific crime.
'We were accusing a priest that -- in those days priests were infallible, ' said De La Vina.
Another relatives, Noemi Sigler, was only 10-years-old when Garza was killed.
'It was impossible for a priest to do such a deed. I mean, if you thought of it, that would be sacrilegious.'
Sigler believes police protected Feit at the time because of his religious authority.
'I don't know whether it was out of respect for the church or anger or fear, I have no idea,' she said.
Later, Noemi Sigler learned from her father, a deputy sheriff, that he had been ordered by his superiors to turn over the Garza case files and stop investigating her murder.
Both cousins refused to let the case die even as Feit went to a monastery and the case grew cold.
Garza's cousins, Noemi Sigler, left, and Lynda De La Vina, were both children when she was murdered but continued to investigate the case on their own until it was reopened by authorities in 2002
One priest, Joseph O'Brien said he worked with Feit at Sacred Heart and told Sigler that Feit confessed to the murder. But the cleric has since passed away.
The other witness was Dale Tacheny, who served as a monk and was Feit's spiritual adviser when he was in the Missouri monastery.
Tacheny said Feit confessed to killing a young woman around Easter.
Feit was immediately a suspect in Garza's death because he had recently been arrested for assaulting another young woman at a nearby church
'That's what he did,' said Tacheny, who said Feit more shocking details in his alleged confession.
The former monk said Feit told him he took Garza to a separate location, where he was living, and hid her there, bound in a bathtub with a bag over her head, overnight.
Tacheny recalled that Feit had allegedly told him that as he was leaving to go to church next morning, he heard Garza say, 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe."'
This is Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas where Feit worked when Garza was murdered
'I believe he killed her,' said Tacheny. 'I had no doubt about it because he said he did.'
But District Attorney Guerra, chose not to arrest Feit because he did not find the two new witnesses credible.
Guerra insisted that after more than half a century, the case against Feit is 'untriable.'
In March 2004, Guerra assigned two prosecutors to handle the case, but Feit was never subpoenaed, and the two main witnesses were never called to give their testimony in person.
That summer, the grand jury declined to indict John Feit for the murder of Irene Garza.