Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Jury expected to get Saldivar case Monday

By PATTY REINERT Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

9:36 PM 10/22/1995

Jurors return to the courtroom today to listen to closing arguments in the case of Yolanda Saldivar, the former fan club president accused of murdering Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla Perez. Saldivar's lawyers abruptly ended their case Friday after calling five witnesses and putting on a half-day of testimony. Saldivar, 35, never took the stand during the two-week trial. Today, each side will have 11/2 hours to try to convince jurors that their version of events is correct.

The jury of six women and six men is expected to begin deciding the case this afternoon. If convicted of murder, Saldivar could be sentenced to anything from probation to life in prison. Defense lawyer Doug Tinker said Friday that he favors making the jury consider only the charge of murder, rather than allowing them the option of convicting his client on a lesser charge. That would force jurors to acquit Saldivar if they believe the shooting at a Corpus Christi Days Inn on March 31 was an accident.

However, a final decision on that issue will come from state District Judge Mike Westergren this morning. Saldivar, who founded the Selena Fan Club and later worked closely with the singer in her two boutiques, admitted she shot Selena in the back. She said she accidentally killed her friend while trying to commit suicide, and has based her defense on that theory. Early in the trial, several motel employees testified they heard a shot, then saw Saldivar chasing Selena, still pointing the gun at her. One witness said she heard Saldivar yell "bitch" as she pursued the singer.

Witnesses in the motel lobby, where Selena ran to get help, also told the jury that Selena named her killer before collapsing on the floor. The front desk clerk, Shawna Vela, said she remembered later -- after giving her statement to police --that Selena had screamed for them to lock the doors and call the police because she feared Saldivar would shoot her again. On Friday, the defense called the motel's manager, Barbara Schultz, to the stand to discredit that testimony. She said she believed Vela was lying and insisted Selena never told anyone to lock the doors or call the police. Schultz, who was the first person to dial 911, was not interviewed by police until months after the killing.

The defense also tried to discredit the lead investigator in the case, Detective Paul Rivera, who took Saldivar's confession at police headquarters after she ended a 91/2 hour standoff in a pickup in the motel parking lot. During the standoff, Saldivar held a gun to her temple and repeatedly threatened to kill herself, saying over and over that she never meant to hurt Selena.

At the police station that night, Saldivar contended -- and a Texas Ranger agreed -- that she told Rivera and another policeman that the shooting was accidental. Before signing the confession, Saldivar complained it was incomplete, telling Rivera he left out the word "accidentally."