Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Saldivar used `cowboy gun,' witness says

Selena was reportedly chased

By ALLAN TURNER and PATTY REINERT Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

9:37 PM 10/12/1995

As mortally wounded Tejano superstar Selena bolted from a Corpus Christi motel room begging for help, her one-time friend Yolanda Saldivar coolly aimed a "cowboy gun" in her direction and cursed her, a former motel maid testified Thursday in Saldivar's murder trial. Norma Martinez, a former maid at the Days Inn, said she was working near Saldivar's room shortly before noon March 31 when she heard a boom. She then turned to see a bloody Selena Quintanilla Perez running from the room, crying for help. "She was in a green suit, like a jump suit, and she was yelling `Help! Help!' " Martinez told the jury of six men and six women in state District Judge Mike Westergren's court. "I didn't know then she was Selena. Another lady, short, was running in back of Selena. She was pointing a gun toward Selena."

As the singer ran toward a parking lot, Martinez testified, Saldivar stopped, lowered the weapon and shouted "Bitch!" She then walked back to her room. Martinez was one of three former or present motel workers who testified they heard a gunshot, then saw Saldivar -- founder of the Selena Fan Club and manager of her boutiques -- chasing the singer with a gun. All three told jurors Saldivar appeared calm. The testimony appeared to dispute defense claims that Saldivar shot the singer by accident. The workers' comments were the highlight of the second day of testimony in Saldivar's murder trial, being held in Houston because of extensive publicity in Corpus Christi.

In other testimony, witnesses said Selena escorted Saldivar to a Corpus Christi hospital the morning of the shooting. Saldivar had claimed she had been beaten and raped the previous day in Mexico, but an emergency room nurse said she did not appear to have been assaulted. During the testimony by the near-eyewitnesses to the shooting, Saldivar, dressed in a pink suit, sat impassively at the defense table. Selena's mother, Marcella Quintanilla, overcome by emotion, was led from the courtroom. Saldivar's mother, Juanita Saldivar, also left the courtroom in tears. Days Inn maintenance man Trinidad Espinoza said he heard a noise similar to that of a tire blowing out.

Upon investigating, he saw a woman he identified as Saldivar chasing Selena. "I was almost positive I would hear a second shot, but she never fired. She stopped and lowered the gun," he said. Espinoza, Martinez and the third worker, Sandra Avalos, all testified that Saldivar seemed calm during the episode. Defense attorney Doug Tinker challenged Martinez's testimony, questioning why she had not mentioned Saldivar's abusive language to police during two previous interviews. "I respect police, and they were older than me," Martinez said. "I thought the word was very disrespectful." Tinker -- who acknowledged Martinez might be nervous because he was "picking on her" -- also questioned other apparent discrepancies between her statements to police and her testimony Thursday.

Martinez told police she had seen Saldivar shoot Selena. But Thursday, she said she had merely heard the shot. Tinker also criticized the witness for her imprecision in describing the pistol wielded by Saldivar. "I'm not too familiar with guns,"she said. "I meant a cowboy gun --it was real big. But I've never been around guns." Attorney Fred Hagans, who is assisting Tinker, similarly challenged Avalos' testimony. Avalos told police that Selena's assailant was a medium-height woman with bleached blonde hair. Saldivar, a brunette, is about 4-foot-9. Mark Skurka, a prosecutor, later dismissed the apparent inconsistencies as "human nature." Tinker, also speaking out of court, said he expects the prosecution to call additional Days Inn employees, possibly workers in the office in which Selena attempted to find shelter. He declined to assess the impact of the day's testimony, however. "We've always conceded that the gunshot came from a weapon in the hands of Yolanda Saldivar," he said. "The case is going like we expected it to go."

Earlier Thursday, emergency room workers at a Corpus Christi hospital testified concerning a visit Saldivar and Selena paid to their hospital hours before the shooting. Patricia Biggs, who then was emergency room director at Doctors Regional Medical Center, said Selena did most of the talking for Saldivar, who seemed extremely morose. Saldivar "never looked at me,"Biggs told jurors, noting that she had to bend to look up into the seated Saldivar's face. "I bent down and asked her if she had been raped. She said, `Yes.'" Biggs said Selena explained that Saldivar had been attacked the previous day in Mexico. "She had a pain in her neck -- she pointed to her neck -- and claimed to have vaginal bleeding." Hospital personnel were unable to fully examine Saldivar, however, because the alleged assault occurred in Mexico, outside their jurisdiction. Still, Biggs said, "I didn't see any evidence to indicate she had been assaulted." Karla Anthony, a registered nurse in the unit, said Saldivar supposedly had been beaten with a bat on her back and abdomen. Asked if bruises were found on Saldivar, she responded, "Not like I've seen on people who have been hit with a bat." "Selena was encouraging Yolanda to talk. She was stroking her hair,"Anthony said.

Occasionally, though, "Selena would shake her head and you could see her expression change." Later, outside the examination room, Anthony said to the singer: "The story she's telling us isn't the same as the one she told you, is it?" "She shook her head and held her finger to her lips, and pointed to the room Yolanda was in," Anthony said. "It was clear that she didn't want Yolanda to hear any discussion on that." She said Selena and Saldivar --attired in the disposable green hospital scrubs she still wore at the time of the singer's shooting -- then left the hospital. Prosecutors also touched on allegations that Saldivar had mismanaged Selena's boutique, as employees of Selena Etc. testified of sloppy recordkeeping at the salon and missing paperwork Selena had tried to retrieve from Saldivar shortly before the singer was killed. Selena's cousin, Debra Ramirez of Lake Jackson, testified that she had gone to Corpus Christi in January to help Selena and Saldivar because business at the boutique was increasing.

She said she returned home after a week because she was disappointed in the job and concerned that the hair stylists at the salon were "not very professional"and she realized they had not been reporting all their sales each day. She said she alerted Saldivar to the problem. "She said that was her business, and she would deal with that,"Ramirez said. Ramirez, 35, said she went back to Corpus Christi in March to work as a receptionist at Q Productions, the recording studio owned by Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr. Besides her normal duties, she said she also spent some time at Selena's home, helping her sort paperwork in preparation for filing her taxes.

She confirmed testimony by Quintanilla and Selena's widower, Chris Perez, that many of the documents Selena needed were never returned to her by Saldivar. Celia Soliz, a 25-year-old nail technician who gave Selena a manicure and pedicure the night before her death, testified that Selena had planned to pick up some documents from Saldivar the next day and then fire her. While Selena was at the salon that evening, she received several pages, apparently from Saldivar. Because Selena's nails were wet, Soliz said, she took down the phone number and dialed for her. Court rules prohibit Soliz from testifying as to what she may have overheard of Selena's telephone conversation, but she did say the singer was very upset when she hung up. Soliz said she was worried about her. "I followed her home ... to make sure she got home OK," she said. The following morning, Selena got up early to meet Saldivar at the Days Inn.