Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Selena killer's time begins with isolation

Death threats reason for protection

By PATTY REINERT Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

8:10 PM 10/27/1995

Yolanda Saldivar, who has received numerous death threats since she killed Tejano star Selena last March, will begin her life prison sentence in isolation, leaving her cell for only an hour a day to walk the grounds alone, a prison official said Friday. Saldivar, the former fan club president and employee Selena affectionately called "Buffy," returned to Corpus Christi Friday morning. She was transferred to the Nueces County Jail a day after a Houston jury gave her the maximum sentence for the singer's March 31 slaying outside a Corpus Christi motel.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman David Nunnelee said Saldivar soon will be moved to the state prison reception center in Gatesville, near Waco, for processing. During her first seven to 10 days there, she will be photographed and fingerprinted, and will receive physical and psychological exams before being assigned to a unit. She likely will remain at the Gatesville prison, Nunnelee said, because it has segregated units to separate disruptive prisoners and those who, like Saldivar, need to be protected from other inmates.

"There have been threats made against her. We realize that," Nunnelee said. Saldivar's attorney, Doug Tinker, said he and his client have received death threats from a prison gang, the Mexican Mafia, as well as others, and Saldivar is terrified she will be hurt or killed. "She is scared to death that she will be harmed wherever she goes," he said after the sentence was read Thursday afternoon. "But isolation is not a blessing. It's cruel in itself --having almost no contact with any other person. I think if it were me, I'd rather take my chances."

Tinker, who plans to appeal Saldivar's murder conviction and sentence, said he is hopeful she will eventually be allowed contact with other prisoners and will be able to use her skills as a registered nurse while behind bars. But Nunnelee said, "She won't have a work assignment because she'll be locked up in her cell most of the time." Unless her conviction is thrown out on appeal, Saldivar, 35, will have to spend at least 30 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

While in isolation, she will spend nearly 23 hours a day alone in her 9-by-6 foot cell, leaving only to shower and to exercise outside or watch television by herself, Nunnelee said. She will eat her meals in her cell and will have virtually no contact with other prisoners, he said. She can purchase a radio from the prison commissary, and will be allowed a two-hour visit with family or friends a week, he added. Saldivar could eventually be moved into the general population of the prison, although that is not likely anytime soon. "It's hard to say (when) at this point," Nunnelee said. "I guess it depends on people's memories."