October 24, 1995 in Nation/World

Singer’s Assailant Found Guilty Jury Convicts Former President Of Fan Club Of Murdering Latino Superstar Selena

Jesse Katz Los Angeles Times
 

The former president of the Selena fan club was found guilty Monday of murdering the 23-year-old superstar, whose legions of fans cheered the verdict as a victory for the Latino community.

Yolanda Saldivar, 35, who also had managed the singer’s boutiques, slumped forward and sobbed inconsolably after learning that she will face a maximum term of life in prison for the March 31 shooting at a motel in Selena’s hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

“Finally, justice has been served,” said Joanna Salguero, 28, a Houston nurse who joined the jubilant crowd outside the county courthouse in her blue medical garb. “When the judgment came through, it was like Selena mattered. For once, our community has a voice.”

The two-week trial, which had been moved to Houston because of extensive publicity, offered two starkly contrasting versions of the Grammy-winner’s death. Prosecutors called it a coldblooded killing, sparked after Selena had accused Saldivar of fleecing her business accounts. Defense attorneys contended the shooting was accidental, an unfortunate mistake by a suicidal confidante.

In what some legal analysts considered a gamble, Saldivar’s lawyer asked the six-man, six-woman jury to weigh only the allegation of first-degree murder, dismissing the possibility of a conviction on lesser charges, such as manslaughter.

The jury - comprised of seven whites, four Latinos and one black - took three hours Monday afternoon to agree on her guilt.

From the beginning, the case seemed relatively open and shut.

The singer, whose full name is Selena Quintanilla Perez, had gone to a Days Inn just a few minutes from her home to retrieve a bag full of financial records from Saldivar, who had been accused of embezzling some $30,000. Distraught, the former nurse from San Antonio pulled out a .38-caliber revolver and fired once into Selena’s back.

Mortally wounded, Selena managed to stagger to the motel lobby, where she whispered her assailant’s name before collapsing. Saldivar, meanwhile, took refuge in a pickup, holding police at bay for more than nine hours as she pointed the gun at herself.

But Saldivar’s court-appointed attorney, Doug Tinker, unnerved many of Selena’s fans by painting an unflattering picture of her father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., whom he described as a manipulative “stage dad” resentful of his daughter’s friendship with a woman he suspected of being a lesbian.

Tinker, who widely is considered among the top defense lawyers in Texas, also introduced dramatic tapes of Saldivar’s cellular phone conversations with police negotiators during her standoff. The jury heard almost all six hours of the recordings, during which Saldivar tearfully insists that the shooting was unintentional - and that Quintanilla had raped her, a charge he has denied.

“It just went off. I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to kill anybody,” moaned Saldivar, who did not testify during the trial. “I wanted to kill me - not her - me, me. I didn’t mean to hurt you, Selena. It was an accident.”

There were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, although motel employees testified that they had seen a bleeding, screaming Selena run from Room 158 to the lobby with Saldivar calmly in pursuit.


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