A father beat to death with his hands a man who tried molesting his 4-year-old daughter after the little girl was heard screaming on the family's rural Texas ranch, authorities said Monday.
Lavaca County Sheriff Micah Harmon said the 23-year-old father, whose name has not been released, is unlikely to be arrested for Saturday's killing and that no evidence so far has led investigators to doubt his story.
"There doesn't appear to be any reason other than what he told us," Harmon said.
Harmon said the victim was a 47-year-old man from Gonzales with no apparent prior criminal history. His name continued to be withheld Monday because authorities still hadn't tracked down any of his family.
The 47-year-old was an "acquaintance" of the father who had come to help care for some horses, Harmon said. He did not know how long the two men may have known each other. The girl was taken to a hospital to be examined and has since been released, Harmon said.
The father called deputies late Saturday afternoon and told them he attacked a man caught trying to sexually assault his daughter, Harmon said.
The incident happened near a barn in Mt. Olive where some horses were being kept. The adults were shoeing a horse and the girl and her brother had been sent to feed chickens.
The children's grandfather said the boy later came back and said his sister had been taken away by a man. Her father then went out to look for her, the grandfather said.
The father found both his daughter and the 47-year-old man partially naked, investigators said.
"In the course of trying to get her away from him, and protect her, he struck the subject several times in the head and the subject died," Harmon said.
Harmon said a grand jury will decide what, if any, charges the father will face.
The 47-year-old man's body was sent to the Travis County medical examiner for an autopsy.
The ranch, which is near Shiner, is about 130 miles west of Houston. Killings are rare in rural Lavaca County. Harmon said his office has only investigated six in his eight years as sheriff.