Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Corpus Christi joyous after verdict

Selena's neighbors celebrate; kin somber

By JAMES PINKERTON Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle Rio Grande Valley Bureau

9:48 PM 10/23/1995

CORPUS CHRISTI -- Hundreds of jubilant fans honked car horns, played Selena songs, flashed victory signs and held up posters as news came that the Tejano superstar's killer was found guilty in a Houston courtroom. In front of Selena's home in the heart of the westside Molina neighborhood, friends, fans and longtime neighbors gathered as soon as they heard Yolanda Saldivar was convicted of murder.

"The jury did a good job. She deserved the death penalty, so they're going to give her whatever (sentence) they're going to give her," said Margarito Garcia, 24, a former classmate of the singer at nearby West Oso Junior High School. Saldivar, 35, faces up to life in prison. The punishment phase of her trial begins today. Garcia clutched a 3-by-4-foot enlargement of a photo of him and Selena that was taken at a private party in 1992. Like most who stood in front of the singer's home, he remembered her warmth and humility. "She was really friendly," said Garcia, who now drives a delivery van. "She talked to everyone. Everyone knew she was a singer, but she didn't act any different. "She was just like us." The Molina neighborhood, a Hispanic barrio near the Corpus Christi airport, has a working class air to it. Residents refer to it as "Molina, Texas" or "Mo Town," an acknowledgement of it being a community inside a community.

The streets and sidewalks were full of kids playing after school Monday afternoon, and parents sat on the front porch to watch the evening come. It was here in Molina that Selena Quintanilla Perez attended junior high school and later high school a few blocks from her home. Like most girls in the neighborhood, she walked home with her friends. But when stardom found the young singer, her friends and neighbors say, she never forgot them. A block from Selena's house, Patricia Rangel, a 22-year-old student at Del Mar College, stood in her driveway tossing a football with her younger brother. Her older sister is the same age as Selena, and the two were in the same class in high school.

But Rangel was one of the few in Molina who didn't want Saldivar to get the death penalty, or at least life in prison. "I definitely don't think she should get probation, but life in jail? Just knowing what she did, she'll have to live with that forever," Rangel said, adding that "30 or 40 years" in prison would be enough. For many Hispanics across the country, Selena's meteroric rise to stardom, along with her strong values, made the singer a symbol beyond her musical ability. Many were devoted to her because of the positive role model she provided. "Hopefully, the sentence will be tough because we've lost someone really special.

Special not just to the down, but to our neighborhood, our race, our people," said Art Rendon, 35 and a school bus driver. "She lifted us up really high." Rendon said he frequently spoke to Selena early in the morning as he walked his dog past the Quintanilla family compound, three brick homes in a row that shared a common fence. "I was born and raised here, and I saw Selena grow up. She was just a lovely person," Rendon said. "I would come down here, walking the dog, and she would come out and say `Hi, how are you?' She was great, she was always cheerful, and she was always happy."

A few miles away at Q Productions, the recording studio operated by Selena's father and uncles, the mood was somber. Family members said they were pleased with the verdict, but there was no joy or jubilation. The sadness that permeated the small studio was evident in all those present. "Well, I guess there was justice,"said Eddie Quintanilla, one of the singer's uncles. "This is the justice of man, but with God, there is also a judging. "I feel for (Saldivar's) parents. You know they had nothing to do with it, and I can imagine what they're feeling. But there is a biblical saying, you reap what you sow."