By Lisa Maria Garza
DALLAS (Reuters) - A former Catholic priest charged in a 55-year-old murder case in which he is suspected of beating and raping a beauty queen in south Texas was extradited on Wednesday to face justice in the state where the crime occurred, authorities said.
John Feit, 83, was arrested last month in Arizona in connection with the 1960 slaying of Irene Garza, 25, in McAllen, Texas. He was transferred to Hidalgo County, Texas, the Texas sheriff's office said.
The Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office said he was booked into jail on a murder charge.
Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said on Wednesday authorities discovered new facts and evidence while reviewing the cold case but declined to provide details. There is no statute of limitations on murder cases in Texas.
"We are one step closer in seeking justice," he told a news conference in Texas.
Feit initially vowed to fight extradition but waived his right at a Feb. 24 hearing, according to court records.
Garza, a former Miss South Texas and second-grade school teacher, was last seen giving confession during Holy Week at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on April 16, 1960, according to the Texas Rangers cold case website.
Her body was found five days later in a nearby canal. An autopsy showed that Garza had been raped while comatose and died of suffocation.
Feit later left the priesthood and moved to Arizona, where he started a family.
He was long considered by authorities to be a suspect in the case but was not indicted. Feit denied any involvement in Garza’s death during a 2013 interview with CNN.
“We’ve always believed that there was probable cause for John Feit to face charges in the death of Irene Garza,” said McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez.
(Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza; Editing by Ben Klayman and Tom Brown)