SHINER, TEXAS – Shiner is a place you can raise your cattle and chickens under the hot Texas sun, cool off with a bottle from the Lone Star State’s oldest independent brewery, then go to bed knowing all your neighbors and believing that you’ll be safe.
But a few days ago, one of its trademark ranches turned into a crime scene. That’s when a father reportedly spotted a man sexually assaulting his 5-year-old daughter, then beat the alleged abuser to death.
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,” Michael James Veit, whose son graduated with the father from Shiner High School in 2007 and who now lives across the road from the ranch where the killing took place, said Thursday. “Everybody is saying the father is justified.”
According to the Lavaca County Sheriff’s office, the 23-year-old father and his family were enjoying a barbecue last Saturday at their ranch on Shiner’s outskirts where they keep horses and chickens.
His young daughter had gone off toward the barn, to feed the chickens, the child’s grandfather — who isn’t being named, to protect the identity of his granddaughter — told CNN affiliates KSAT and KPRC.
Then her father heard screaming and ran. He found a 47-year-old man in the act of sexually abusing his daughter, according to Sheriff Mica Harmon.
The father stopped the alleged abuser, 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.”
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 Harmon described the victim as an acquaintance of the family, known for his horse-grooming abilities. He has not yet been publicly identified by authorities.
The father himself 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 would die 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 his 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.”
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.”
Most any violence is unexpected in Shiner, a 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.
Billing itself as the “Cleanest Little City in Texas,” Shiner is known for the Spoetzl Brewery, a wire and plastics company, not to mention its acres upon acres of plains and farms. Veit calls it “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.”