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Former Miss Venezuela slain in robbery

| Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, 9:06 p.m.

CARACAS — A former Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband were shot and killed, and their 5-year-old daughter wounded when they resisted robbers by locking themselves inside their car when tire punctures disabled it on an isolated stretch of highway, police said on Tuesday.

The slaying of Monica Spear, 29, a popular soap-opera actress, and Thomas Henry Berry, a 39-year-old British citizen, was the latest high-profile crime in a country where killings are common in armed robberies and where rampant kidnapping has ensnared even foreign ambassadors and professional baseball players.

The killings followed a pattern in Venezuela of late-night assaults carried out by disabling cars with obstacles placed on roadways or by removing sewer covers.

Spear and Berry were slain at about 10:30 p.m. between Puerto Cabello, the country's main port, and the provincial capital of Valencia.

They were returning from vacation to Caracas 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, said the director of the country's investigative police, Jose Gregorio Sierralta.

Two tow trucks arrived almost immediately afterward, said Sierralta, and the attack occurred when 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.

Police in Puerto Cabello arrested five suspects, some younger than 18, Sierralta added.

Their daughter, Maya, was in stable condition and was with relatives in Caracas, Sierralta said.

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