A father beat to death with his hands a man who he said tried to molest his 4-year-old daughter after the little girl was heard screaming at the family's rural Texas ranch, authorities said.

Lavaca County Sheriff Micah Harmon said the father, whose name has not been released, will probably not 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 (for the killing) other than what he told us," Harmon said Monday.

Harmon said the victim was a 47-year-old man from nearby Gonzales with no apparent prior criminal history. Authorities withheld his name because they had yet to track down any of his family.

The victim 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 had known each other. The girl was taken to a hospital to be examined and has since been released, Harmon said.

The father called police late Saturday afternoon and told them he attacked a man he caught trying to sexually assault his daughter, Harmon said. The alleged attack happened near a barn where some horses were being kept.

"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 victim's body was sent to the Travis County medical examiner for an autopsy.

The ranch 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.