Father remembers slain former Miss Venezuela

Monica Spear, ex-husband killed in front of daughter

MIAMI - The father of a well-known soap opera actress and former Miss Venezuela who was killed during an armed robbery says their home country must change.

Raphael Spear spoke Tuesday, a day after his daughter, 29-year-old Monica Spear, and her ex-husband, 49-year-old Henry Thomas Berry, were shot to death by assailants who ambushed the family on a road in Puerto Cabello-Valencia, Venezuela.

Spear, who lived in Miami, was visiting family for the holidays.

"We have a war there," said Spear, who lives in Orlando. "Every year, many people -- as my Monica -- is been killed [sic] and that country has to change."

The family was awaiting a tow for their broken-down car. Authorities in Venezuela believe its tires may have been deliberately punctured. Reports theorize the motive was robbery.

The Associated Press reports that Monday's incident follows a pattern of assaults carried out by disabling cars with obstacles placed on roadways.

The couple's 5-year-old daughter survived a gunshot wound to her leg.

"We will bring her here and we will have her growing up here," said Spear.

Five people have been arrested in connection with the shooting, according to media reports.

Spear, who studied theater at the University of Central Florida before winning the Miss Venezuela crown, appeared on the Telemundo soap operas "Flor Salvaje" ("Savage Flower") and "Pasion Prohibida" ("Forbidden Passion").

"We are deeply impacted and saddened by the horrible crime that the beloved actress Monica Spear and her family suffered," the network said in a statement. "Monica was not just a great professional, as she showed in the two soap operas that she worked on with us ... but also she was an excellent person, always enthusiastic and with great strength and determination."

Venezuela is one of the world's most violent countries, according to a United Nations ranking.

One person is killed roughly every 21 minutes in Venezuela. And there were 24,700 violent deaths last year in the oil-rich country of roughly 30 mill on people, according to the nonprofit Venezuelan Violence Observatory.

The observatory says the country's murder rate has soared to nearly 80 deaths per 100,000 people. Government statistics put the figure significantly lower, at 39 deaths per 100,000.

"You don't have rule of law anymore in part because Hugo Chavez encouraged his followers to do what they think they needed to do to keep the opposition in line," said Susan Kaufman Purcell, director of the Center Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.

Purcell added that guns are more widely distributed than ever before because Chavez armed his supporters.

Jerry Haar, a professor at Florida International University, said he feels safer attending conferences in Afghanistan than Venezuela.

"You have a quasi-anarchistic state here where one who's in Venezuela, especially in the big cities, is not safe anywhere," he said. "It's going to take many years -- it may take decades -- for Venezuela to develop the kind of civil society it once had."

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