Venezuelan officials identify 7 suspects in slaying of beauty queen
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Authorities Thursday identified seven suspects arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of former beauty queen Monica Spear and her ex-husband and said some of the victims’ personal belongings were recovered.
The suspects include two minors aged 17 and 15 and a 39-year-old woman who belong to a gang in Puerto Cabello called the El Cambur Savages, according to Police Commissioner Jose Gregoria Sierralta, who heads the CICPC investigative entity, which is akin to the FBI.
Four additional suspects were being sought in the slayings of Spear, the 2004 Miss Venezuela and a soap opera actress, and ex-husband Thomas Henry Berry, who were fatally shot Monday night after the car in which they and their 5-year old daughter were traveling was disabled by a flat tire. Their killers fired through the car windows after the victims locked themselves in the vehicle. The girl was wounded in the leg.
In comments to the news media, Sierralta said robbery was the motive for the attack.
A tow truck driver and his assistant who arrived on the scene shortly before the attack are not suspects in the case, Sierralta said.
The gang is suspected of having put objects on the highway to cause the flat tire that forced the couple to pull over. The attack occurred less than a mile from a National Guard station. Searches of the suspects’ houses turned up a digital camera that Sierralta said belonged to Spear.
The killings of Spear, 29, and Berry, 39, a tour agency owner who was a British citizen, has shocked Venezuelans long accustomed to high homicide rates.
President Nicolas Maduro said that by next month he would have in place a “pacification plan” for Venezuela aimed at reducing the number of firearms in the country. Venezuela has one of the highest homicide rates in the hemisphere.
He also said the media were making the deaths of Spear and Berry into a “sick novel meant to destroy Venezuela.”
“They are trying to convert the case into a blood and death show to demoralize Venezuela,” he said.
Maduro also announced a shake-up of his Cabinet, naming four new ministers. He did not replace Miguel Rodriguez Torres, the minister for the interior, justice and peace, who oversees police and national defense issues, despite a public outcry for improved security measures.
Special correspondents Mogollon and Kraul reported from Caracas and Bogota, Colombia, respectively.
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