SANTA BARBARA Honduras (Reuters) - Amid applause and sobs, friends and family buried a murdered Honduran beauty queen and her sister on Thursday while authorities charged a suspect with the crime.
The bodies of Maria Jose Alvarado, 19, and her sister Sofia, 23, were found buried near a river in the mountainous region of Santa Barbara in western Honduras, police said on Wednesday.
Police believe Plutarco Ruiz, Sofia's boyfriend, shot and killed the elder sister in a fit of jealousy after seeing her dancing with another person and then shot Maria Jose and buried the bodies.
Police found the women's bodies because Aris Maldonado, who is believed to be an employee of Ruiz, told police he helped him bury them.
Ruiz appeared before a judge on Thursday and was formally charged, an official at the attorney general's office said.
Hundreds of people walked along dirt roads from the Galeras neighborhood where the sisters lived, following a car carrying the wooden coffins inside a glass case adorned with flowers.
Draped across Maria Jose's coffin was the Miss Honduras sash she won at the contest in April. She was due to compete in the Miss World finals in London in December.
"The family is devastated," the victims' uncle, Claudio Munoz, told journalists through tears. "They killed two girls with such promise ... They will be remembered as queens forever in Honduras and the world."
The case has shocked Honduras, which is rife with violence fueled by territory disputes between drug cartels engaged in moving cocaine through the country to the United States.
The impoverished Central American nation has the highest homicide rate in the world, with 90.4 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, almost twice that of nearby countries with high crime, such as Venezuela and El Salvador.
With reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; Writing by Christine Murray in Mexico City; Editing by Simon Gardner and Lisa Von Ahn