Murdered Ex-Miss Venezuela Had Been Attacked Before

Monica Spear was no stranger to violence, but refused to leave country she loved

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 9, 2014 6:30 AM CST | Updated Jan 9, 2014 7:53 AM CST

(Newser) – A high-profile shooting in Venezuela continues to grab headlines, with the Monday night murder of well-known soap-opera actress and former Miss Venezuela shining a light on the country's rampant violence—as the nation's leader tries to shift the focus. President Nicolas Maduro yesterday tried to paint Monica Spear's death not as a botched robbery but as a "contract killing," though NBC News points out that he provided no details backing up his theory. More on the killing:

  • Spear, 29, and husband Thomas Henry Berry separated about two years ago, but friends told NBC that they were close and vacationed together with their 5-year-old daughter, who was shot in the leg. NBC describes their fateful holiday as an "idyllic road trip."
  • Both were no stranger to violence: Spear was robbed six times in Venezuela, but her family failed in its efforts to persuade her to move to the US. (Though the Miami Herald notes she lived in Miami from December 2012 to June 2013 while filming a soap opera.) Berry was shot in Venezuela, where he worked as an adventure tour operator, more than a decade ago and left the country, but moved back in 2006.
  • A police official says their car struck "a sharp object that had been placed on the highway." A tow truck arrived to deal with at least two punctured tires; gunmen did as well, after the car was loaded on the truck. The trio locked themselves in their car, and at least six shots were fired. Spear was hit through her armpit a number of times; Berry was struck in the chest.
  • The Guardian reports six gang members have been detained; NBC News reports five people have been arrested.
  • The Guardian reports by way of local media that the Interregional del Centro highway sees 10 attacks per month; the gangs known to prey on its drivers tend to try to puncture tires to force victims to pull over.
  • So how dangerous is Venezuela? The Herald notes that the government stopped disseminating murder data a decade ago; an annual estimate made by the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence put last year's figure at 24,763 murders, which translates to a homicide rate of 79 per 100,000 people; that would be the No. 2 rate in the world, after Honduras. For comparison's sake, the murder rate in Chicago last year was 4 per 100,000, notes Time.

In this May 11, 2005 file photo, Miss Venezuela Monica Spear poses for photographs outside the Grand Palace ahead of the Miss Universe pageant in Bangkok, Thailand.
In this May 11, 2005 file photo, Miss Venezuela Monica Spear poses for photographs outside the Grand Palace ahead of the Miss Universe pageant in Bangkok, Thailand.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)
A woman holds up a picture of slain former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her ex-husband Henry Thomas Berry during a protest against violence in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.
A woman holds up a picture of slain former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her ex-husband Henry Thomas Berry during a protest against violence in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.   (AP Photo/Alejandro Cegarra)
This May 23, 2005 file photo released by Miss Universe shows Monica Spear, Miss Venezuela 2005.
This May 23, 2005 file photo released by Miss Universe shows Monica Spear, Miss Venezuela 2005.   (AP Photo/Miss Universe Darren Decker, File)
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