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Court hands down long sentence to 3 who confessed to killing Venezuelan soap opera actress

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CARACAS, Venezuela — Three men who confessed to killing a former Miss Venezuela and her husband in a crime that shocked a nation increasingly accustomed to violence have each been sentenced to more than 20 years in jail.

PHOTO: FILE - This May 23, 2005 file photo, released by Miss Universe shows Monica Spear, Miss Venezuela 2005, posing for a portrait ahead of the Miss Universe competition in Bangkok, Thailand. Three men who confessed to murdering the former Miss Venezuela and her husband in a crime that shocked a nation increasingly accustomed to violence have each been sentenced this Tuesday Sept. 23 2014, to more than 20 years in jail. (AP Photo/Miss Universe Darren Decker, File)
FILE - This May 23, 2005 file photo, released by Miss Universe shows Monica Spear, Miss Venezuela 2005, posing for a portrait ahead of the Miss Universe competition in Bangkok, Thailand. Three men who confessed to murdering the former Miss Venezuela and her husband in a crime that shocked a nation increasingly accustomed to violence have each been sentenced this Tuesday Sept. 23 2014, to more than 20 years in jail. (AP Photo/Miss Universe Darren Decker, File)

The sentences were handed down Tuesday by a court in Valencia, near where Monica Spear and husband Thomas Henry Berry were slain in January when they resisted a robbery attempt while they were stranded on a lonely stretch of highway. Five more defendants remain on trial, Venezuela's Supreme Court said.

Oil-rich Venezuela has one of the world's highest homicide rates, and President Nicolas Maduro has said combatting violent crime is one of his top priorities.

Spear was a 2004 Miss Venezuela and popular soap opera actress.

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