Maria Jose Alvarado, who was crowned Miss Honduras in April and had planned to fly to London Wednesday to compete in the Miss World pageant, disappeared with her sister Sofia Trinidad last Thursday after a party, sparking an exhaustive search.
Chief detective Leandro Osorio said the bodies of the 19-year-old beauty queen and her 23-year-old sister had been found buried along the banks of the Aguagual River in the town of Arada, in violence-plagued Honduras’s northwest.
“We are 100 percent sure that it’s them,” he said.
Police are holding Trinidad’s boyfriend, arrested Tuesday in connection with the sisters’ kidnapping, on suspicion of killing them, Osorio said.
“We are holding the author of this horrific act, Mr Plutarco Ruiz. We have found the murder weapon and the vehicle used to transport them,” a white pick-up truck, he said.
Police are investigating additional suspects who they believe tried to help cover up the crime, including by cleaning and repainting the pick-up at a garage, Osorio added.
Organizers of the Miss World pageant, which begins Saturday, sent their condolences and announced a tribute this weekend in honor of the slain sisters.
“We are devastated by this terrible loss of two young women, who were so full of life,” Julia Morley, the pageant’s chairwoman, said in a statement.
“We will be holding a special service with all of the Miss World contestants on Sunday, where we will be honoring the lives of Maria Jose Alvarado and Sofia Trinidad, and say prayers for them and their family.”
The pageant organizers said they also planned to donate money to a children’s home in Honduras in the two women’s memory.
Alvarado, who turned heads with her gleaming smile and wavy chestnut hair, was in her last year of university at the Northern Polytechnic Institute, where she studied computer science.
She had participated in beauty contests since she was a young girl.
She was also known in Honduras for her work as a model on popular TV game show “X-0.”
She and Trinidad disappeared outside the northwestern city of Santa Barbara after attending a birthday party for Ruiz at a local resort.
Forensic teams retrieved their bodies Wednesday from the riverbank where they were discovered, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the resort.
Evidence indicated the women were killed the same night they disappeared, Osorio said.
Police arrested Ruiz and an alleged accomplice on Tuesday, seizing a Colt-45 pistol and two vehicles.
“Investigators have been working tirelessly to get to the bottom of these atrocious acts, which have brought on mourning in Santa Barbara and across Honduras,” Osorio said.
– World homicide crown –
The sisters were last seen leaving the party in a champagne-colored car.
Their mother, Teresa Munoz, says the same vehicle was at her home earlier that day to pick up Alvarado, who had just arrived from the capital Tegucigalpa, about 200 kilometers away.
Munoz had made a tearful plea for the safe return of her daughters after their disappearance.
Residents of Santa Barbara held a demonstration demanding their release Tuesday, when hope still lingered that they were alive. Wearing white T-shirts with the girls’ pictures on them, they marched with a banner reading “May God protect them.”
Honduras, a poor Central American country of eight million people, has seen an explosion of gang violence in recent years.
It has the world’s highest homicide rate, at 90.4 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012.
The United Nations’ special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, warned in July that violence against women was on the rise in Honduras, with a 263.4-percent increase in the number of females killed violently between 2005 and 2013.
Arabeska Sanchez, a criminologist at the National University’s Violence Observatory, said Alvarado’s slaying bore the hallmarks of organized crime.
“Only organized crime networks rent a business, such as the resort in this case, close it to maintain control and post guards outside,” she said.
“These crimes have been happening a lot in Honduras, but in this case it gets attention because it has an international impact.”- AFP