Caracas: The discovery of a digital camera stolen from the popular actress Monica Spear and her ex-husband was the key to identifying the seven people arrested in their fatal shooting, the chief of Venezuela's criminal police said.
Commissioner Jose Gregorio Sierralta told reporters yesterday that the camera was found during a search of the home of one of the people arrested for the killing of the pair on an isolated stretch of highway Monday night during a robbery.
Their deaths, witnessed by their 5-year-old daughter after they had locked themselves in their car, triggered a national uproar over Venezuela's rampant violent crime.
Sierralta said the camera led police to a criminal band that preyed on motorists on the section of highway near Puerto Cabello, the country's main port.
Spear, a former Miss Venezuela, and Thomas Henry Berry were returning to Caracas on vacation when a sharp object in the road punctured two of their car's tires.
Sierralta said the criminal band was led by a 32-year-old known as "Fat Danilo," who was among those arrested. He said at least 11 people took part in the crime and four remained fugitives.
A 19-year-old man among the arrested may have been the lone shooter, the commissioner said. He said the weapon had not been recovered.
Sierralta said the ringleader supplied younger men in the gang with guns and drugs. He did not specify which drugs.
He said five people originally arrested as suspects in the crime had been released, adding that the crew of a tow truck that had arrived to help out the stranded motorists helped lead police to the people arrested.
The slain couples' families held a private wake yesterday in Caracas and said they would later open the viewing to public admirers of the 29-year-old actress, who was crowned Miss Venezuela in 2004.
Spear and Berry were to be buried today.