If you caught a man in the act of sexually assaulting your young daughter, what would you do?
A few days ago, one of Texas’ trademark ranches in Shiner turned into a crime scene. Billing itself as the “Cleanest Little City in Texas,” Shiner is known for the Spoetzl Brewery, a wires and plastics company, not to mention its acres upon acres of plains and farms. Violence is unexpected in this small community between Houston and San Antonio that has about 2,000 people within its city limits and another 1,500 or so on its outskirts, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
A 23-year-old father and his family were enjoying a barbeque last Saturday at their ranch on Shiner’s outskirts where they keep horses and chickens. His 5-year old daughter had gone off toward the barn to feed the chickens. Trouble started when her father heard her screaming. He ran towards her and found a family acquaintance in the act of sexually abusing his daughter. The father stopped the alleged abuser, and then pounded him repeatedly in the head.
“I jumped the fence and saw the man on the ground,” the grandfather said of what he first saw. “At that point, I didn’t know if he was dead or not.” The child’s grandfather is not being named to protect the identity of his granddaughter.
Authorities did, in fact, pronounce the alleged abuser dead. Lavaca County Precinct Judge Alene Lyons said Monday that a preliminary autopsy report show he “died from blunt-force head and neck injuries,” adding toxicology report results should be back in six weeks.
Sheriff Mica Harmon described the victim as an acquaintance of the family, known for his horse-grooming abilities. The forty-seven year old man has not yet been publicly identified by authorities.
The father himself had called 911, telling them that his daughter’s alleged abuser was lying, beaten, on the ground. Afterward, the sheriff said that the admitted killer appeared “very remorseful” and didn’t know the other man died at the scene.
Asked whether authorities would press charges against the father, the sheriff responded, “You have a right to defend your daughter. He acted in defense of this third person. Once the investigation is completed we will submit it to the district attorney, who then submits it to the grand jury, who will decide if they will indict him.”
In a community that prides itself as being peaceful, a place where things like this just don’t happen, there is a sweeping consensus that justice was served.
“Any father would have done that. Everybody is saying the father is justified.” says Michael James Veit, who lives across the road from the ranch where the killing took place. His son graduated with the father in 2007 at Shiner High School.
Neighbors portrayed the father as hard-working, friendly and polite, the type of guy who reliably addresses others as “Sir”. “He’s not a violent guy, he’s never been in any trouble in his life,” said Veit of a man he described as a single father who worked nobly to make ends meet. “He’s a good, honest, hard-working kid.”
Veit calls Shiner “a small-town community,” filled with folks who may not be wealthy but who work hard and look out for one another. “Nothing ever happens, there’s never any murders here,” Veit said. “Everybody knows everybody, and gets along with everybody. This killing is a real big shock.”