Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Selena was beyond aid, doctor says

Heroic efforts made to save shot singer

By PATTY REINERT Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

9:39 PM 10/19/1995

Selena Quintanilla Perez was dead on arrival at a Corpus Christi hospital and heroic efforts to save her life were pointless from the beginning, a doctor testified Thursday in the murder trial of the Tejano singer's former fan club president. "It was a futile effort," said Dr. Louis Elkins, a cardiac surgeon who operated on Selena after she was shot in the back March 31. "She was dead when she arrived at Memorial Medical Center. If I had been the receiving doctor, I would not have started treatment."

Because another doctor in the hospital's emergency room had already made the decision to attempt to revive the singer, Elkins said he felt obligated to continue treatment. The surgeon was among the last witnesses called to testify by prosecutors, who plan to complete their presentation this morning. Lawyers for defendant Yolanda Saldivar plan to recall several state witnesses as well as some new witnesses to make their case that the shooting at the Days Inn motel was accidental. Firearms examiner Ed McKinstry was the latest prosecution witness to cast doubt on that theory.

He testified Thursday that the weapon used in the shooting was functioning properly and he insisted the gun could not be fired accidentally because of its safety features. "The only way to fire it is to deliberately pull the trigger," McKinstry testified. Asked by defense lawyer Patricia Saum if the gun could have accidentally discharged if Saldivar were squeezing her hand and waving the gun around, McKinstry responded, "If you're squeezing your hand, you're pulling the trigger." Elkins testified Thursday that when he arrived at the emergency room around noon on March 31, another doctor had already opened Selena's chest and was squeezing her heart with his hands, trying to get it beating again. "There was no evidence of neurological function. There was no blood flowing to the brain.

The pupils were fixed and dilated. She was not breathing on her own. She had no vital signs," Elkins said. "Her blood pressure was zero. Her pulse was zero. Her respiration was zero." Still, doctors were able to establish an erratic heartbeat long enough to move the singer to the operating room, where Elkins opened her chest wider, injected drugs into her heart and applied pressure to her wounds. A pencil-size artery leading from the heart had been cut in two by the hollow-point bullet fired from a .38 revolver, and the singer's blood --as well as six units of blood from a transfusion -- was spilling out, Elkins said. "She had lost most of her blood --either onto the ground or into her chest. It was no longer contained in the blood system," he said.

The singer's right lung had also been pierced by the bullet, and her collarbone was shredded, he added. "It was just a mess," the surgeon said. "It was my professional opinion it was futile to continue." On cross-examination, defense lawyers asked Elkins whether Selena's father and manager, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., had insisted doctors stop giving his daughter blood, citing his religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness.

The surgeon said he was unaware of Quintanilla's request and that, even if he had been informed of it, he would have continued the blood transfusions. "Although I respect her faith, she did not have the opportunity to tell me to discontinue that treatment,"Elkins said of Selena. But he added that no amount of blood would have brought the singer back to life.

Nueces County Medical Examiner Lloyd White, who performed an autopsy on Selena the day of her death, agreed with Elkins that the singer "simply bled to death." White ruled the death a homicide and said it was not accidental as Saldivar claims. "I'm quite certain the gun was intentionally fired," he testified. "What the person intended to do in firing the gun, I don't know." White showed the jury several color photographs taken of Selena during her autopsy. One juror began crying, stopping the proceedings briefly while she was given a tissue.