Nuns who found Sister Tadea Benz dead in her...

AMARILLO, Texas -- Nuns who found Sister Tadea Benz dead in her convent room last Halloween thought she had died of natural causes and only called police because they later found a window had been broken.

Testimony began Wednesday in the murder trial of Johnny Frank Garrett, 18, of Amarillo, who is charged in the rape and strangulation of the 76-year-old nun.


Prosecutor Danny Hill is seeking the death penalty for Garrett.

The trial was scheduled to resume today at 9 a.m. CDT.

Sister Angela Martinez, who discovered the nun's body early the morning of Oct. 31, 1981, testified she went into shock and could not think of what to do after finding Sister Tadea's nude body on the floor with her arms outstretched by her side.

'I missed her and was concerned because she seldom missed chapel,' Sister Angela said. She found the door to Sister Tadea's convent room was closed.

'It was very much unsual that the door was closed because Sister Tadea was hard of hearing and always left her door ajar to hear the morning buzzer,' she said. 'I knew it was not Sister Tadea's doing, but I could not think further.


'It was too much for me. I was in shock.'

Four other nuns testified they wrapped Sister Tadea's body in a sheet, believing she had died in a fall, and cleaned up spots of blood on the floor near her body.

Sister Florantine said she discovered a broken window later in the day and realized a break-in had occurred. When police arrived to investigate the break-in, she said she thought of telling them about the nun's death, but hesitated.

'In my mind, I thought of it. But I took it for granted, as did the others, that she died a natural death,' she said.

Officers overheard the nuns' conversation about the death, however, and an investigation revealed Sister Tadea had been raped, beaten and strangled.

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