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Dec 8, 6:37 PM EST

The Latest: Ex-priest gets life in prison for 1960 killing


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EDINBURG, Texas (AP) -- The Latest on the murder trial of an ex-priest in the 1960 death of a Texas woman (all times local):

5:35 p.m.

A jury has sentenced a former priest to life in prison for the strangulation death of a female parishioner 57 years ago.

The Hidalgo County jury in South Texas deliberated just over four hours Friday before returning the maximum sentence for murder against 85-year-old John Bernard Feit (FYTE). The same jury found him guilty Thursday night for the killing of 25-year-old schoolteacher and former beauty queen Irene Garza in April 1960.

Feit was a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, when he first came under suspicion in Garza's death. He said he had heard Garza's confession in the church rectory instead of the confessional but denied killing the woman.

Prosecutors had asked for a 57-year prison sentence, one year for each of year Feit was free after Garza's death.

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12:10 p.m.

Prosecutors are asking a Texas jury to send a former priest convicted of murder to prison for 57 years, reflecting how long he has walked free since the killing in 1960.

The punishment phase of the trial for 85-year-old John Bernard Feit (FYTE) began Friday, a day after he was found guilty in the death of schoolteacher Irene Garza in McAllen, Texas.

The prosecution and the defense each made brief remarks to the Hidalgo County jury before the panel began deliberating.

Prosecutor Michael Garza, who is not related to the victim, asked the jury not to view the elderly and weak Feit as he is today. Garza says they must imagine him as a 28-year-old man capable of subduing and strangling the woman.

Feit came under suspicion early on. He told police that he heard Garza's confession in the church rectory rather than in the confessional, but denied he had killed her.

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6:30 a.m.

A former priest, convicted of murdering a female parishioner more than 57 years ago, now faces testimony on what punishment he should receive.

A South Texas jury is hearing that testimony Friday, a day after finding 85-year-old John Bernard Feit (FYTE) guilty of murder in the April 1960 strangulation death of schoolteacher Irene Garza, a 25-year-old former beauty queen.

Feit was a 28-year-old priest at a McAllen, Texas, Catholic church at the time of Garza's death. Evidence indicates that South Texas authorities tried to look away from suspicions about the priest in 1960 to protect the church. Years of pressure by Garza's family finally prompted a newly elected district attorney to reopen the case.

The Hidalgo County jury that convicted Feit can now sentence him to up to life imprisonment.

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