Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Future for Selena's killer: isolation, heavy security, fear

By MICHAEL GRACZYK Copyright 1995 Associated Press

3:12 PM 10/27/1995

A fearful Yolanda Saldivar, who has received death threats and a life sentence for murdering Tejano queen Selena, can look forward to an isolated and grim future in prison. "She'll be placed in administrative segregation because of her notoriety," Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said. That means the 35-year-old former Selena fan club president, who won't be eligible for parole until 2025, will have little if any contact with other inmates and will be kept alone in a small cell. "There'll be guards everywhere," Fitzgerald said.

Although it may be as long as two weeks before she is assigned permanently to a prison, it's virtually certain she will be imprisoned in Gatesville, 35 miles west of Waco, at one of two Texas prisons with administrative segregation sections for women. She'll have no radio, no television and meals will be served to her in her cell on a tray. She will recreate outside alone under close supervision. The isolation is necessary for Saldivar's own safety. "She's scared to death she will be harmed where she goes," Saldivar's attorney, Douglas Tinker, said in the aftermath of Thursday's verdict on punishment. "She should be," Fitzgerald noted. Since her arrest for the March 31 shooting of the popular 23-year-old Grammy winner, and particularly during her three-week trial in Houston, Saldivar became the object of death threats.

One of the most vocal Saldivar-haters apparently is the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang, which had promised revenge for the death of Selena regardless of the trial's outcome. "It's my view that every effort will be made to protect her," Tinker said. "What worries me is as time goes by, my expectation will be a relaxing of the security and things can happen. "I hope that's not true, but as I understand it, there are dangerous people in the penitentiary." Melissa Santos, a fan among the celebrants outside the courthouse as Saldivar was sentenced, said: "She'll suffer within those years. "It won't bring Selena back, but it's some satisfaction," she said. Harris County authorities said Saldivar, who had no previous criminal record, would be handed over to state corrections authorities and wind up at a reception center for inmates in Gatesville.

There she will undergo a strip search, don a white hospital gown and go to a cellblock for a preliminary examination. She'll have a photo made and identification card processed, take a shower and be assigned to a single, temporary cell. On the second day of state custody, she'll undergo a psychiatric interview, dental and eye exams and later an additional psychological examination. Day 3 will involve IQ tests and more psychiatric tests. In subsequent days, she'll build a portfolio of paperwork that includes a visitors list specifying which 10 people will be allowed to see her on weekends. No more than two people will be able to spend up to four hours at a time with her on Saturday and Sunday.

By the second week of her incarceration, a reception and diagnostic committee will decide where she should be imprisoned permanently. Fitzgerald said the former nurse, who rose from Selena groupie to manager of her boutiques, should be in her cell at Mountain View or Gatesville within 10 days. "I hope she has an opportunity for some interaction with the other people who are there," Tinker said. "I would hope she would have an opportunity, for what period of time she's there, to practice her skills as a nurse."