Venezuela’s largest national police agency on Jan. 13 arrested a ninth suspect in the brutal murder of 30-year-old telenovela actress Mónica Spear and her ex-husband, Thomas Henry Berry.
Spear and Berry, who remained close friends following their split, were slain the evening of Jan. 6 in the northern Venezuela state of Carabobo by bandits after their Toyota Corolla blew a tire on the Puerto Cabello to Valencia highway. Their 5-year-old daughter, Maya Berry Spear, suffered a gunshot wound to her leg in the incident and is reportedly recovering in the care of her grandparents.
Officials with the Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas (CICPC) believe Spear and Berry were victims of a growing after-dark danger in Venezuela — the intentional disabling of vehicles by local gangs who have removed grates from drains or dug holes into streets and highways with the intent of forcing vehicles off the road.
Spear rose to stardom in her native Venezuela after she was crowned Miss Venezuela 2014, at age 20. She represented the nation at Miss Universe 2005, finishing as fourth runner-up. Following her run, Spear turned to soap operas, taking the starring role in Mi Prima Ciela, a 2007 RCTV production that aired in the U.S. on TeleFutura (now UniMás) in 2008.
Spear’s star status in the U.S. grew in fall 2011, with the debut of the telenovela Flor Salvaje in the 9 p.m. slot on Telemundo. The RTI Producciones/Telemundo production concluded its run in March 2012, setting the stage for Spear to appear alongside rising male protagonist and recording artist Jencarlos Canela in Pasión Prohibida, a remake of the Turkish telenovela Aşk-ı Memnu. Telemundo aired the soap at 8 p.m. from January June 2013. The role yielded a nomination as favorite lead actress in the 2013 Premios Tu Mundo, an awards show produced by Telemundo. Spear lost to Aracely Arámbula.
“We are deeply saddened by the horrible crime that affected the beloved actress Monica Spears and her family,” Telemundo executives said a statement. “Monica was not only a great professional as we saw in the two novelas she worked with us, but also an excellent person, always enthusiastic, full of strength and determination. We wish a quick recovery to her daughter and send our deepest condolences to her family.”
Friends, family and fans gathered to pay their respects to Spear and Berry at a Jan. 10 funeral in Caracas. Spear was a naturalized American citizen and maintained residences in Caracas andiami, to be near Telemundo’s operations in South Florida. Her parents reside in Orlando, where she attended Seminole State College and later graduated in 2004 from the University of Central Florida. After a chat with her father, Rafael Spear, Monica ditched her aspirations of majoring in chemical engineering by switching to theater studies. Rafael Spear is a project engineer at Siemens Westinghouse.
"I told her she had to decide what she wanted to do to be happy for the rest of her life," he told the Orlando Sentinel. "When my children were young, I wouldn't let them watch telenovelas. Then she began acting in soap operas, and I began watching all of hers."