TIME.com readers were right: the Texas dad who beat to death a man who was allegedly raping his 5-year-old daughter doesn’t deserve to stand trial.
On Tuesday, a grand jury refused to indict the father, whose name is being kept under wraps to protect the identity of his little girl (her age was being reported as 4 last week). He killed Jesus Mora Flores, a family acquaintance, at a barbecue held at the family’s ranch earlier this month after finding him molesting his daughter behind a barn. The father pulled Flores, 47, off his screaming daughter, then beat him. When he realized the extent of the man’s injuries, he phoned 911 in a panic. “He’s going to die!” the father yelled at the dispatcher. “He’s going to f—ing die!”
Investigators confirmed that the scenario played out as it had been described by the father and witnesses. The girl was taken to a hospital, where forensic evidence indicated she’d been sexually abused. Emergency responders found Flores with his pants and underwear pulled down.
The Associated Press reports:
In declining to indict the 23-year-old father in the June 9 killing of Jesus Mora Flores, a Lavaca County grand jury reached the same conclusion as investigators and many of the father’s neighbors: he was authorized to use deadly force to protect his daughter.
“It’s sad a man had to die,” said Michael James Veit, 48, who lives across the street from where the attack happened in this small community run on ranching and the Shiner beer brewery. “But I think anybody would have done that.”
Indeed, in such a horrific and unimaginable moment, it’s easy to believe that many parents would have reacted similarly. I couldn’t see myself having any semblance of self-control. But I wonder about the conclusion that the father was “authorized to use deadly force to protect his daughter.” One blow probably would have been sufficient to separate the alleged predator from the girl. But the dad pummeled Flores to death. That degree of force was likely unnecessary — but neither investigators, the grand jury nor the general public could muster up much sympathy for Flores. Perhaps it’s because serving as our children’s protector is hardwired.
Last week, when I wrote about the alleged offense, David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, parsed why a parent might overreact in the case of sexual abuse:
“We have an instinctual desire to protect our kids,” says Finkelhor. “A sexual threat is seen as a mortal threat against their future and their reputation. It is almost like a trigger where we are completely entitled to feel righteous anger.”
Most readers confirmed Finkelhor’s assessment. Among the most popular comments: “This is an extension of the right to self-defense. The child cannot defend herself. Most fathers would rather go to jail rather than not act to defend their child. Charges should be dropped.”
Another reader suggested that “lifetime free passes to Disneyland” should be awarded to the dad: “Touch a kid. Die. Done.” A third wrote: “Completely agree. So heinous. Death is deserved.”
Whether that’s true or not, it must be said that there are no winners in this situation. A man is dead, a father killed someone, and a 5-year-old is old enough to remember what happened to her for a very, very long time.