Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

October 18, 1995: Partial testimony of Detective Paul Rivera

Prosecution questioning:

Valdez: State your name and occupation.

Rivera: My name is Paul Rivera, I'm a detective for the of Corpus Christi Police Department. I've been in the homicide division for 24 years, 17 years handling criminal cases.

Valdez: What were you expected to do in these cases?

Rivera: I was commanded by my lieutenant to talk to witnesses, gather evidence, get identification, process the scene, take photographs if there is a suspect and interview the suspect. I oversee four to five cases per day commanded by the lieutenant.

Valdez: On March 31, 1995, were you working that day?

Rivera: I was working in the downtown area when I was dispatched to the downtown area where a shooting had taken place at 901 N. Navigation, Days Inn Motel. I didn't know who was involved. The dispatcher that had called said the suspect was in the parking lot in a red pickup. I got there about 8 minutes later after the shooting about 12:05 p.m. When I got to the Days Inn, I saw an ambulance as I was driving into the first entrance. After entering the driveway, I looked over and saw two officers who were taking cover. I took cover behind a vehicle, assisting the officers.

Valdez: What did you do after you saw the officers taking cover?

Rivera: I drew my weapon.

Valdez: Then what did you do?

Rivera: After approaching two officers, they began to approach the red pickup and I saw a female inside the truck. I looked in here face through the rearview mirror. I began talking to her in the driver's open window. I did not go over to the window because she was holding a gun to her head.

Valdez: At that time did you know who she was?

Rivera: Subsequently I found out what her name was. I said, "Lady, put your gun down,"  and she said, "Get away!'' After that, an employee of the restaurant came out and I learned for the first time who the victim was and that Selena had been shot.

Valdez: What time did the other officer arrive?

Rivera: I guess they arrived around 12:20 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. I explained to him who had been shot and the lady was holding a gun to her head.

Valdez: When were you assigned to this case?

Rivera: I was assigned to the case at the scene.

Valdez: Was anybody else assigned to the case?

Rivera: No.

Valdez: What was your role?

Rivera: Case agent. My responsibility for this case included making sure that all of the evidence is there.

Valdez: Was Ray Rivera assigned to assist you? By the way, is he any relation to you?

Rivera: Yes,  he was assigned to assist me, but he is no relation to me.

Valdez: Who gives you orders?

Rivera: The lieutenant or my supervisor. Being the main agent, I went to the opposite side of the motel, and I found Mr. Espinoza and he told me #158, where the shooting occurred. Then we started rounding up witnesses. I also waited for the scene to be processed.Witnesses were sent to the police station by other sergeants. Officers did not know anything about the case and did not know what to ask the witnesses. They just took statements.

Valdez: After talking to some witnesses, then what did you do?

Rivera: The door to #158 was opened. I saw blood on the door. It was visible blood, splattered.

Valdez: If someone was just walking by, would they be able to see the blood?

Rivera: Yes, if someone was walking by, they could see the blood.

Valdez: What else did you see?

Rivera: Inside there was a purse, there was a blood trail leading from the door to the gate where a satchel was found. Blood was also on the ground. Blood on the sidewalk just outside the door.

Valdez: Does this Exhibit depict what you saw that day?

Rivera: Exactly the way it looked that day. If someone was walking outside the door, they would be able to see the blood.

Valdez: Describe for us what you saw that day in the way of blood.

Rivera: The trail of blood was leading toward the swimming pool into the entrance, inside the lobby. The blood trail started in Room 158 into the grassy area, blood continued to the driveway, then back up the sidewalk around the restaurant into the lobby, to the end of the counter, about 390 feet.

Valdez: Did you have a ruler to measure the distance?

Rivera: No, I used the feet measure steps. After following the blood trail, I went to Memorial Hospital around 2 p.m. because I wanted to know the victim's condition. She had expired. Then I met the family members, Chris Perez.

Valdez: Had you met Mr. Quintanilla?

Rivera: Never met Mr. Quintanilla before.

Valdez: Then what did you do?

Rivera: I left the hospital and went to the police station to get more statements from Yolanda Saldivar. I was in the station about an hour. Then I went to the morgue.

Valdez: Were you present during the autopsy?

Rivera: Yes, I was present at the autopsy, then I got in my car and went back to the station. After I got back to the station, I called a Ranger and told him to come over because I had something for him to do. Ranger talked to the defendant's people who had arrived at the station. I went back to the scene about 7 p.m. with the Ranger. At the scene I talked to several people.

Valdez: Did you talk to the hostage negotiators?

Rivera: I don't remember talking to the hostage negotiators. At approximately 9:30 p.m., the defendant was placed in custody.

Valdez: Then what happened?

Rivera: I requested that she be brought to the station. At the station, I took Yolanda Saldivar to the interviewing room with 3 officers and the defendant totaling 4 people in the interview. I asked the Ranger to leave because I did not want Yolanda Saldivar to be intimated.

Valdez: How big was the interviewing room?

Rivera: About 7x8 feet.

Valdez: How was the defendant's demeanor?

Rivera: Yolanda Saldivar's demeanor was very quiet. She understood everything that we told her. I read her her rights

Valdez: Did the defendant know that she could make any changes that she wanted to while her rights were being read to her?

Rivera: Yes, sir. After reading her her rights, I started taking notes from what she was saying.

Valdez: Was she talking voluntarily?

Rivera: Yes, sir. When someone starts giving a statement, I take notes, I go over these notes with the defendant, then I dictate the statements from the notes, give them to my secretary to type. After the typed statement, I compare that it matches what I had written.

Valdez: Did the typed version match what you had dictated?

Rivera:Yes, sir.

Valdez: At the time of Ms. Saldivar's interview, did she have a pen to make changes?

Rivera: Yes. Defendant double-checked the typed statement and initialed her changes, then she signed each page at the bottom.

Valdez: While you were reading were there any corrections?

Rivera: Several. She wanted to give up her rights. She was not crying.

Testimony resumes after 15-minute break.

Valdez: What do you usually do with the statements after they have been typed up?

Rivera: I usually shred statements but I did not in this case. I read the statements to her.

Valdez: Tell the court what those statements were.

Rivera: 1) That she is accused of murder. 2) That she has a right to make a statement. 3) Any statement she made may be used in court. 4) She has a right to a lawyer. 5) She has a right to have a lawyer appointed and 6) she has a right to stop this interview. Yolanda initialed every line and wrote, "Yes, I understand my rights."

Valdez ask Rivera to read the statement of Yolanda Saldivar:

Rivera (reading statement): "No one has threatened or coerced me to make these statements. My phone number is..., my address is ... my age is ... After doing payroll, employees went from 38 to 14. Mr. Q did not agree with me working there. He said I was a lesbian. He was putting a lot of pressure to stay away from her. On March 27, 1995, I drove to Monterrey with my sister. I stayed there Monday through Wednesday without contacting Selena. I called Selena and she told me to bring back some bank statement. The next day I got back to Corpus Christi at 7:30 p.m. with my nephew. I paged Selena between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. about 8 times. She called me back at 11:30 p.m., then she came by but said her husband was waiting in the car. She took the bank statements. Before she left I told her a man had opened my car door and tried to rape me. Selena called me at 8:30 a.m. the next morning, came over to the motel about 9 a.m. and took me to the hospital where I was treated for my bruises. She told me that the papers were wrong and that I was a lesbian. She argued and I gave her everything I had, pager, papers. Selena dumped everything on the bed. I took the gun from my purse and Selena starting walking toward the door. I told her to close the door. She took off running, and I don't know where she went. I looked for her but I couldn't find her. Police officers arrived and I put the pistol to my head for 10-12 hours. I finally was taken down to the police station and read my rights." She signed.

Valdez: How many corrections were made to this statement?

Rivera: Four

Valdez: Who made those corrections?

Rivera: She did.

Valdez: What sentence was the correction made to?

Rivera: I pulled the hammer back and pulled the trigger and shot her as she was walking.

Valdez: Did she indicate wanting to correct her statement?

Rivera: No sir. She told me the gun went off. I said you just said you pulled the trigger and she said, "That's right," and then she signed the statement.

Valdez: Do people refuse to sign statements?


Valdez: Was there a refusal this time?

Rivera: No.

A statement of items found in Room 158 is presented as an exhibit.

Valdez: There is a lot of writing on that page. Who wrote on there?

Rivera: I did. The items recovered inside Room 158 on April 1, 1995 were: one brown paper bag containing women's clothing and women's white blouse with brown lace. During her interview she wanted to know what was going to happen to her. While I was dictating her statements, she wanted someone to come to photograph her because she had an injury after she tripped and fell going to the police station.

The defense attorneys had no questions for Rivera.