Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorney Michael Garza holds a photograph of Irene Garza as he presents his closing argument in the John Feit murder trial, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, at the Hidalgo County Courthouse in Edinburg. On Monday, Garza received the “Lone Star Prosecutor of the Year Award.” (Nathan Lambrecht | The Monitor)

EDINBURG — The lead prosecutor in last winter’s John Feit trial was named prosecutor of the year by the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, Hidalgo County announced Monday.

Assistant District Attorney Michael J. Garza received the “Lone Star Prosecutor of the year Award” in September, with TDCAA making it public Monday. Garza who serves as chief of the intake division, is the first ADA with the Hidalgo District Attorney’s Office to receive the award, said DA Ricardo Rodriguez Jr., who hired him in 2015.

On Dec. 7, 2017, a Hidalgo County jury convicted Feit, a former priest, of murdering his parishioner Irene Garza in 1960 at McAllen’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and sentenced him to life in prison. The 86-year-old is appealing the conviction.

Garza, who is of no relation to the victim, described the case as “a once-in-a-lifetime case.”

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Irene Garza or the trial,” he said. “I probably crossed the line in getting emotionally involved in the aspects of the case, and maybe that’s what it took in prosecuting the case.”

The Lone Prosecutor Award recognizes prosecutors and DA’s office personnel whose tireless work “in the trenches” advances justice in their communities, according to TDCAA’s website.

Rodriguez campaigned on bringing Feit before a jury, after his predecessor, Rene Guerra, refused to take the murder case to trial.

“There are a lot of prosecutors that are more deserving (of this award) because of their efforts day in and day out,” Garza said. “I was able to focus a lot of time and effort into one case, and it needed it. It was 57 years old with a lot of dead witnesses. Rick (the DA) gave me the opportunity and the time to do a proper investigation.”

In the year since Feit’s conviction, Garza said he is “still conducting special investigations into the cases that significantly affect citizens of Hidalgo County.”