Miss Honduras accused decline to testify on killing

National Police agents escort Plutarco Antonio Ruiz (second from left), the boyfriend of Miss Honduras Maria Jose Alvarado's sister, in Santa Barbara, 200km north of Tegucigalpa, on Nov 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
National Police agents escort Plutarco Antonio Ruiz (second from left), the boyfriend of Miss Honduras Maria Jose Alvarado's sister, in Santa Barbara, 200km north of Tegucigalpa, on Nov 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

SANTA BARBARA, Honduras (AFP) - The man accused of killing Honduras' Miss World contestant and his three alleged accomplices declined to testify on Tuesday at their first court appearance.

Plutarco Ruiz is accused of shooting dead his girlfriend, Ms Sofia Trinidad Alvarado, and her sister, Ms Maria Jose Alvarado, the reigning Miss Honduras, after his birthday party on Nov 13 at a resort outside the north-western town of Santa Barbara.

After being taken to court in a bullet-proof vest, Ruiz, 32, declined to testify in a brief appearance before the judge, as did three people accused of helping him cover up the crime: his friend Aris Maldonado Mejia; resort owner Ventura Diaz; and Diaz's wife, Ms Elizabeth Alvarado.

The two sisters' bodies were found buried along the banks of a river last Wednesday, the same day Maria Jose had been due to fly to London to compete in the Miss World pageant.

Maria Jose was shot 12 times and her sister 10.

Investigators initially said they believed Ruiz had flown into a jealous rage after seeing Sofia dancing with another man.

But police sources have said they now believe he erupted into anger when the sisters tried to leave the party early because they were upset by the amount of drugs and alcohol being consumed.

Ruiz has denied killing the sisters, in comments to Britain's Daily Mail.

Maria Jose, 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 was also known in Honduras for her work as a model on popular TV game show X-0. The small Central American country 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, Ms Rashida Manjoo, has warned that murders of women in Honduras rose more than 250 percent between 2005 and 2013.

Thousands of people across Central America protested violence against women Tuesday in marches organized for the UN's International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

In the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, protesters shouted "Justice!" and "Stop killing women!" as they marched from Government House to Congress carrying photos of victims, including the Alvarado sisters.