TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - A top police official says what appear to be the bodies of Miss Honduras 2014 and her sister have been found buried near the spa where they disappeared six days ago.
National Police director, Gen. Ramon Sabillon says authorities are awaiting confirmation from forensic officials that the bodies are Maria Jose Alvarado, 19, and her sister, Sofia, 23. He said early Wednesday that Plutarco Ruiz, boyfriend of Sofia, and an accomplice, Aris Maldonado, have been arrested.
Sabillon said Sofia's boyfriend, Plutarco Ruiz, confessed and led authorities to the bodies buried in a river bank in a mountainous area of Santa Barbara, about 240 miles west of Tegucigalpa.
Sabillon said the two men allegedly buried the bodies near the river so they would decompose quickly.
Both women, who grew up in the area, were shot to death and appeared to have been killed the night they disappeared, Sabillon said.
He said Ruiz apparently shot his girlfriend, Sofia, because she was dancing with another man. After a fierce argument, he pulled out a pistol and fired at Sofia first, then at Maria Jose as she tried to flee. The beauty queen was shot at least twice in the back, Sabillon said.
"They were not very astute about assessing the people around them. They were just friendly," the sisters' mother Teresa Munoz told Televicentro. "They were taken out by people they hadn't known very long."
Munoz said Ruiz called her the following morning, acting nervous and claiming the young women had left the party in a car with some other people.
Alvarado had been scheduled to leave for London on Sunday to compete in the Miss World 2014 pageant. A pageant representative said Honduras would not compete in the contest this year, given the tragedy.
Julia Morley, chairman of the Miss World Organization, which began in the United Kingdom in the 1950s, told Reuters the group was "devastated by this terrible loss of two young women, who were so full of life."
The organization would say prayers for the dead women in a service on Sunday and hold a fundraiser to donate money for a children's home in Honduras chosen by their mother, she added.
The two women were last seen Thursday in a spa in Santa Barbara, about 240 miles west of Tegucigalpa, where they had gone to celebrate Ruiz's birthday.
"Witnesses said my daughter left the spa with three men," her mother, Teresa Munoz, told reporters. "I tried repeatedly all night to call their cellphones without any response."
According to the U.N., Honduras has the world's highest murder rate, with an estimated 90 to 95 killings per 100,000 people. It is one of Latin America's poorest countries and earlier this year was the main source of a surge in unaccompanied minors migrating to the United States, many to escape the violence.
Human Rights Watch writes: "Perpetrators of killings and other violent crimes are rarely brought to justice. The institutions responsible for providing public security continue to prove largely ineffective and remain marred by corruption and abuse, while efforts to reform them have made little progress."
Drug trafficking has largely been blamed for the startling rise in violence in the Central American nation in the last decade.
Honduran officials receive aid from the U.S. to fight the trafficking of cocaine headed for the U.S. market. The country has 400 miles of northern Caribbean coastline, with plenty of tree cover and great uninhabited stretches for moving drugs.
While Hondurans blame their police for much of the crime, police say they are overwhelmed and outgunned by the drug traffickers and criminals.
Alvarado had also worked as a model on the game program "El Show X O da Dinero" of television personality and former presidential candidate Salvador Nasrallah. He said he was very saddened by the news.
"A lot of girls die this way, but because they're not famous, it doesn't get the attention and the crimes go unpunished," Nasrallah said. "She was a girl of good principles who fell into a trap, a game with guns, and ended up a victim of a violent system."
In the South American nation of Venezuela, which also suffers from high crime, a former Miss Venezuela and popular soap-opera actress, Monica Speer, was killed during a robbery in January while she was visiting her homeland with her family.