Former Miss Venezuela Killed in Robbery

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Famous soap opera actress and former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear has been gunned down along with her ex-husband during a robbery while driving on a country road in Venezuela.

Police say that Spear 29, and her ex, Thomas Henry Berry, 39, were driving along with their 5-year-old daughter in Venezuela's Carabobo state on Monday night when they had car trouble. Robbers shot and killed the two and wounded the daughter when the family tried to foil the assault by locking themselves inside the car.

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The three were returning by car to Caracas after spending New Year's in the mountains of western Venezuela and then visiting the plains of the country's Apure state. The daughter, Maya, was in stable condition after being treated for a leg wound and was with relatives in Caracas, authorities said.

Spear won Miss Venezuela in 2004 and represented her country in the Miss Universe pageant in 2005, finishing as 4th runner-up. She was also a popular actress featured in soap operas on the Telemundo network and was splitting time between her native country and the United States.

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Fatal shootings have become commonplace during armed robberies in Venezuela, which has one of the world's highest murder rates -- the United Nations ranks the county No. 5 globally.

The president Miss Universe Organization, Paula Shugart, reacted to the news Wednesday, in the following statement: "The Miss Universe Organization was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic and senseless death of Monica Spear, Miss Universe Venezuela 2004 and Thomas Henry Berry. Monica was known for her enthusiasm and outgoing personality when she competed at Miss Universe and was extremely well-liked by everyone. Our heartfelt condolences go out to her family and we pray for her daughter."