Former Miss Venezuela killed in front of daughter
By Valeria Pacheco, AFP
January 9, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
CARACAS--Gunmen shot dead a former Miss Venezuela and her British-born partner in front of their 5-year-old daughter, who was wounded in an attack that dismayed the crime-plagued nation, authorities said Tuesday.
Monica Spear, a 29-year-old soap opera star, and Thomas Henry Berry, 39, were killed in what appears to have been a botched robbery after their car broke down on a highway in northwestern Venezuela late Monday, police and prosecutors said.
Their daughter, Maya Berry Spear, was wounded in the right leg but was stable after receiving medical treatment in a crime that put a harsh spotlight on Venezuela's soaring murder rate.
Five people have been detained and were interrogated in connection with the killings, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said after a televised meeting with President Nicolas Maduro, who vowed to use an "iron hand" to crack down on crime.
The family was on a scenic highway when their car hit a blunt object that had been placed on the road, forcing them to pull over, said forensic police director Jose Gregorio Sierralta. There are suggestions that the object was strategically placed as part of a planned armed robbery.
Spear waved down a tow truck, which stopped to help on the road between Puerto Cabello and Valencia in the state of Carabobo, Sierralta said.
But as the two truck workers operated the crane, five armed men emerged on the road.
The truck's operators fled to a police station about 1.5 kilometers away while the mother, father and child locked themselves in their car in a desperate attempt to shield themselves from the killers.
But "the criminals fired multiple shots at the vehicle" before fleeing without stealing anything, Sierralta said.
Investigators impounded the couple's car and took testimony from the two tow truck operators.
Spear, who was a quarter-finalist in the 2005 Miss Universe contest, appeared in the Miami-based Telemundo series "Pasion Prohibida" ("Forbidden Passion") and "Flor Salvaje" ("Savage Flower").