CARACAS, Venezuela – Five unidentified suspects have been arrested for killing former Miss Venezuela and her Irish ex-husband in front of their 5-year-old daughter when they resisted a robbery on a roadside in Venezuela.
Monica Spear, 29, and her ex-husband Thomas Henry Berry, a 39-year-old British citizen were spending New Year's in the mountains of western Venezuela with their 5-year-old daughter then visited the plains of Apure state. Though divorced, the two stayed close for their daughter.
Spear and Berry were shot and killed in close range on an isolated stretch of highway in Venezuela on Monday night when they tried to foil an assault by a group of robbers by locking themselves inside their car, which had been disabled by tire punctures, police said Tuesday.
Their daughter, Maya, witnessed the murder of her parents, is in stable condition after treatment for a leg wound and was with relatives in Caracas, authorities said.
Some of the suspects arrested by police in Puerto Cabello are under the age of 18. The accused bandits fired at least six shots into the vehicle.
The slaying of Spear and her ex-husband followed a pattern of late-night assaults carried out by disabling cars with obstacles placed on roadways.
They were killed at about 10:30 p.m. between Puerto Cabello, the country's main port, and the provincial capital of Valencia, while on a badly maintained stretch of highway that is lightly traveled at that hour.
Their four-door sedan hit "a sharp object that had been placed on the highway" which punctured at least two of its tires, the director of the country's investigative police, Jose Gregorio Sierralta, told reporters.
Two tow trucks arrived almost immediately afterward, said Sierralta, and the attack occurred after the car had been lifted onto one of the trucks.
Seeing the assailants coming, the travelers locked themselves inside and the assailants fired at least six shots, he said.
"They fired with viciousness," President Nicolas Maduro said of the attackers.
It could not immediately be determined if Spear and Berry had called the tow trucks, or if any of the drivers were among those arrested for suspected involvement in the killings.
In response to the killings, Maduro announced that he would convene a security meeting on Wednesday that had originally been scheduled for the end of January. It is to bring together state governors and mayors of Venezuela's 79 most dangerous cities.
Spear was crowned Miss Venezuela in 2004, was 5th runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant the following year and had acted in numerous soap operas, most recently in "Pasion Prohibida" for the U.S.-based Telemundo network.
According to El Nacional, a Venezuelan newspaper, Spear split her time between Caracas and Miami in South Florida. Spear, a University of Central Florida graduate, had been told by her family not to spend too much time in Venezuela because of the insecurity. But she was shooting a short film in Carcas and wanted to spend time with her ex-husband and daughter.
“There’s no words to describe our pain. This is something that should have never happened,” said Monica Spear’s father Rafeal Spear to News 13 in Orlando.
“Our plan is to bring Maya since she’s now alone in this world,” Spear said of the five year old daughter. “Our plan is to bring her here and have her grow up in the States, if the U.S. government allows us to do that.”
Berry's public-facing Facebook page features a series of photos of the couple in blissful days, including a trip to Venezuela's spectacular Angel Falls that preceded their daughter's birth.
Another view into their life was available through the Twitter account of Spear, who had more than 355,000 followers.
Her feed over the last week included brief videos sent on the popular Instagram.
In one, posted Sunday and described as being taken on the plains, Spear looks at the camera while riding a horse, turns away and then looks back, blowing a kiss.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.