Former Miss Venezuela and Telenovela Star Monica Spear Shot Dead in Venezuela

Former Venezuelan beauty queen and popular telenovela actress Monica Spear and her ex-husband Thomas Berry were shot dead in their car by armed robbers in Venezuela.

The couple's 5-year-old daughter - who was traveling with them at the time of the attack - was treated for a light leg wound and was with relatives in Caracas, authorities said.

Spear, 29, and Berry, 39, were slain Monday late night near Puerto Cabello, the country's main port, while headed to Caracas after their car hit "a sharp object that had been placed on the highway," the director of the country's investigative police, Jose Gregorio Sierralta, told the Associated Press.

He said the attack occurred after the car had been lifted onto a tow truck and, seeing the assailants coming, the family locked themselves in their car.

Police in Puerto Cabello had arrested five suspects, some under age 18, Sierralta added.

Family friends told NBC News that although the couple had split up a couple of years ago they remained close and spent vacations and holidays together for their daughter's sake.

Spear resided in the United States.

Venezuela had more than 24,000 homicides in 2013. The U.S. Department of State rates the criminal threat level in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, as "critical."

Spear became Miss Venezuela in 2004 and represented her native country again at Miss Universe 2005 in Bangkok, and was fifth runner-up. The actress has appeared in a half-dozen Spanish language soap operas, most recently "Pasion Prohibida" and "Flor Salvaje" on Telemundo.

Spear's death triggered a wave of anger on social media directed at the populist government's poor record on crime.

Speaking on state television, President Nicolas Maduro lamented "the loss of a very spiritual young woman" actively involved in various charities.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles called on Maduro to put aside political differences and unite "to win the fight against insecurity" that claimed nearly 25,000 lives last year. "It's an emergency."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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