Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Juror denies any ties to the uncle of Selena

By PATTY REINERT Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

9:24 PM 11/29/1995

A Houston electrician Wednesday denied he lied to cover up a friendship with Selena Quintanilla Perez's uncle so he could serve on the jury that convicted Yolanda Saldivar of killing the Tejano singer. Jose F. Estimbo, 30, insists he does not know Selena's family, although his older brother -- who shares his name and resembles him -- may be acquainted with one of the slain singer's distant relatives. "I don't know any Quintanillas," said Estimbo, who goes by Frank after his middle name Francisco. "They (the defense) must assume I had it out for Yolanda Saldivar and I didn't. I went in there with the intentions of being the perfect juror. I think I did that. I gave her every benefit of the doubt."

Estimbo said he's unsure whether his brother, Jose, knows the woman who signed a sworn statement that she had worked with the juror at a pawn shop four years ago. Claire Castro Sanchez's statement that she had heard Estimbo brag of knowing Selena's family was used to bolster a motion for a new trial filed by Saldivar's lawyers before Thanksgiving. "I'm just upset that this woman would do that," Estimbo said. "She does not know me. I do not know her. I think this was pretty underhanded. I wish they would have contacted me before they jumped the gun."

Defense attorneys Doug Tinker and Patrick McGuire's motion, filed in state district court in Corpus Christi and Houston, claimed Saldivar was denied a fair trial last month because of juror Estimbo's apparent bias, among other things. Saldivar, Selena's former fan club president, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Sanchez, who approached Saldivar's lawyers after seeing the juror Estimbo on television following the verdict, could not be reached Wednesday.

Houston lawyer Trish Saum, who assisted Tinker in defending Saldivar, said the allegation was made in good faith and could be cleared up if Estimbo would provide photographs of himself and his brother so they could question Sanchez again. Frank Estimbo said late Wednesday the defense had not contacted him. "I believe they're embarrassed," he said. "They made a big mistake.

If they want to subpoena me, I'll go down there and I'll swear again I don't know these people." Saum said she was skeptical of Sanchez's claim at first because the woman told an investigator she believed Estimbo's wife's name was Pam, which did not match his notation on his jury questionnaire. "I certainly wouldn't want to accuse someone falsely," Saum said. "Our investigator is really good, and he went out to see (Sanchez) on more than one occasion.

She insisted she recognized him (Estimbo) on TV. "We would not be doing our jobs in representing Yolanda Saldivar if we didn't go with this. If it turns out it wasn't him, we won't be successful on that point of our motion." A woman identifying herself as Pamela Estimbo, wife of the juror's brother, contacted the Chronicle on Tuesday after a story about the request for a new trial was published.

The woman said Sanchez apparently mistook the juror on TV for his brother, who did work with Sanchez at a Houston pawn shop several years ago. "They do resemble each other quite a bit," Pamela Estimbo said. "They've had this problem their whole life because they have the same name and they look alike." Frank Estimbo said the name similarity has caused confusion, and he sometimes gets his brother's bills. But he downplayed the physical resemblance. "We look just like brothers," he said, "but he's four years older than me."