Former Miss Venezuela, partner shot dead, child hurt

Venezuelan Monica Spear poses after being elected Miss Venezuela, in Caracas, on Sept 23, 2004. Assailants shot dead the former Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband in the latest high-profile case of violent crime in the South American nation, authorities said on Tuesday.

CARACAS - A former Miss Venezuela and her British-born partner were shot dead while their five-year-old daughter was wounded during a suspected roadside robbery that shocked the nation, authorities said Tuesday.

Monica Spear, a 29-year-old soap opera star, and Thomas Henry Berry, 39, were killed after their car broke down on a highway in northwestern Venezuela late Monday, prosecutors said in statement.

Their daughter, Maya Berry Spear, was wounded in the right leg but stable after receiving medical treatment in an assault that put a spotlight on the country's soaring murder rate.

Five people have been detained and are being interrogated in connection with the crime, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said after a televised meeting with President Nicolas Maduro.

"We presume it was a robbery ... but we are in the middle of an investigation," Rodriguez said.

The family was attacked by five assailants just as a tow truck had finished lifting the car, which had broken down on the highway between Puerto Cabello and Valencia in the state of Carabobo.

The terrified mother, father and child locked themselves in the car but "the criminals fired multiple shots at the vehicle," Serralta said. Authorities are interrogating the tow truck's two operators. Investigators impounded the couple's car for further analysis.

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").

The dark-haired actress, who lived in the United States, was vacationing in her native Venezuela at the time of her death. She had posted videos of the countryside and herself horse riding on Instagram in the last couple of days.

Her husband was born in Britain but has Venezuelan citizenship.

"This is a massacre," said Maduro, who vowed to curb the country's runaway violence during his presidential campaign last year. "This violence is a sickness that we have." he said from the Miraflores presidential palace.

Maduro called mayors and governors to a meeting on Wednesday to coordinate actions against crime.

Venezuela has one of the world's highest murder rates, with 79 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013, according to the non-profit Venezuelan Observatory of Violence.

The interior ministry, however, gave a lower murder rate of 39 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

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