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01 October 2023

Men get 30 years for beauty queen murder

(File) Monica Spear being crowned Miss Venezuela in 2004. (AFP)


A Venezuelan court has sentenced three men to 30 years in prison for the killing of a former beauty queen and her partner, prosecutors said Saturday.

The court in the northern state of Carabobo convicted the men of "intentional homicide committed during a robbery" in the January 2014 attack on the couple.

Monica Spear, 29, and her partner Thomas Henry Berry, 39, were returning from a trip with their daughter when their car broke down on a remote stretch of highway in north-central Venezuela.

As a tow truck operator tried to help, a group of gunmen opened fire on the vehicle, killing the couple. Their daughter was wounded.

Spear was Miss Venezuela in 2004 and competed in the Miss Universe pageant the following year, finishing fifth. She was also a TV actress.

A court sentenced two boys aged 15 and 17 to four years in prison last year after it said they admitted taking part in the attack. Three other young men got terms of between 24 and 26 years.

In the latest sentencing, the Carabobo court also handed a 10-year jail term for robbery to a female accomplice, the state prosecution service said in a report published Saturday.

Venezuela's homicide rate is among the world's highest at 58 deaths per 100,000 people, according to official statistics. Non-governmental monitors, however, estimate the rate is even higher.