September 19, 1960 |
San Antonio, Texas, USA
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment with the possibility of parole in 30 years (2025)|
|Criminal status||Incarcerated at Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas|
Yolanda Saldívar (born September 19, 1960) is an American woman in prison for murdering Tejano singer Selena on March 31, 1995, at the Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi, Texas. She will be eligible for parole on March 30, 2025.
Saldívar was the youngest of eight children born to Frank and Juanita Saldívar in San Antonio, Texas. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. As a child, she was bullied at school because she was overweight. Saldivar rarely made any friends and isolated herself from social activities. Her father Frank was a head waiter at Jacala, a Mexican restaurant in the West End.
She attended four different high schools. In the Edgewood School district Saldívar first attended Kennedy High School, then transferred to Holmes High School in the Northside Independent School District (San Antonio, Texas), followed by Jay High School in the Northside Independent School District, and graduated from McCollum High School of the Harlandale Independent School District in San Antonio in 1979. While at McCollum, Saldívar belonged to the Junior ROTC. Few classmates recall Saldívar, who was a classmate of Ram Herrera, who graduated in 1978, and Emilio Navaira, who graduated in 1980. Saldívar was accepted at the University of Texas in 1985, then transferred to Palo Alto College. Around this time, she became obsessed with losing weight. She worked as an Emergency Center Tech for several years at Medical Center Hospital. Later she began working as a graduate nurse at another Hospital in San Antonio Texas. In March 1990, she received her license as a registered nurse from the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners and earned $37,000 a year. Saldívar never married and had to work full-time after adopting three children, one of them her niece.
Saldívar's employer, dermatologist Faustino Gomez, sued her for $9,200 that he said she stole from him starting in 1983. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court. Within two months, Saldívar was back in court again when the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation obtained a Travis County court judgement in Austin against her for failing to repay a student loan of $7,363. During this time, Saldívar had switched jobs and was working as a nurse at St. Luke's Lutheran Hospital.
Selena fan club
In the next four years, Saldívar worked at two other hospitals. Having become a fan of Tejano music, she began attending artists' concerts. After a Shelly Lares concert in San Antonio, she approached the singer about starting a fan club. Her request was declined by Lares' father, Fred, who would approve of no one but family members working with the singer. Saldívar was convinced by her friends to give Selena a try, although she originally disliked the singer because she dominated the Tejano Music Awards.
After attending one of her concerts, she began repeatedly calling Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., about starting a fan club in San Antonio. Quintanilla eventually gave in to Saldívar's requests and she immediately became the club's president. Saldívar was promoted as manager of Selena's clothing boutiques, Selena Etc.. By 1993, the fan club had reached 1,500 members in less than four years, and eventually grew to over 5,000. It became one of the largest fan clubs in the San Antonio area.
Murder of Selena
In early 1995, Selena's family discovered that Saldívar was embezzling money from the fan club and the boutiques, so they fired her. Three weeks later, Selena agreed to meet Saldívar at a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi on the morning of March 31, 1995, to retrieve financial records Saldívar had been refusing to turn over. Saldívar once again delayed the handover by claiming she had been raped in Mexico. Selena drove Saldívar to a local hospital, where doctors found no evidence of rape. They returned to the motel, where Selena again demanded the financial papers. Saldívar took a pistol from her purse and pointed it at the singer. Selena tried to flee, but Saldívar shot her once in her right shoulder, severing an artery. Critically wounded, Selena ran towards the lobby for help. She collapsed on the floor as the clerk called 911, with Saldívar chasing her, calling her a "bitch". Selena died in a hospital from loss of blood at 1:05 p.m, two weeks from her 24th birthday.
Trial and imprisonment
Saldívar's trial for the murder of Selena was followed closely by the Latino community in the United States. The trial was not televised, but cameras were permitted on the courthouse premises. The venue was moved to Houston, Texas, after Saldívar's lawyers successfully argued that she could not receive a fair trial in Selena's home town. Before the start of the trial, CNN reported that prosecutors were expected to introduce a controversial police confession signed by Saldívar in which she said she shot Selena "during an argument over accusations from the singer's father that Saldívar stole money from Selena's accounts." The defense was expected to introduce testimony from Texas Ranger Robert Garza that "he overheard Saldívar claim the shooting was accidental, and that she objected when police failed to include it in her statement".
The defense attorney argued the shooting was accidental, but the prosecution pointed out that Saldívar, a trained nurse, did not call 911 or try to help Selena after she was shot. Saldivar claimed that the gun "[accidentally] went off". The pistol, a 5-shot .38 cal. revolver, required 11 pounds of pressure on the trigger to fire, which can occur only when the trigger is intentionally pulled. The judge did not give the jury the option of lesser charges of manslaughter or negligent homicide, and told the jurors they must convict or acquit Saldívar on the sole charge of first-degree murder.
The jury deliberated for two hours on October 23, 1995 before finding Saldívar guilty of murder. After nine hours of jury deliberation, she was sentenced to life in prison on October 26, 1995, with parole eligibility set for thirty years; this was the maximum prison term allowed in Texas at the time. On November 22, 1995, she arrived at the Gatesville Unit (now Christina Crain Unit) in Gatesville, Texas to be processed.
Saldívar is serving a life sentence at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She will become eligible for parole on March 30, 2025. Due to multiple death threats from fellow Selena fan inmates, Saldívar was placed in isolation. She spends 23 hours each day alone in her 9 by 6 feet (2.7 m × 1.8 m) prison cell. She was allowed to purchase a radio from the commissary. She may have a two-hour visit with family or friends each week.
After the conviction
The revolver used to kill Selena went missing after the trial and was later found in the home of a court reporter. Despite objections from some historical groups, it was dismantled and the pieces thrown into Corpus Christi Bay in 2002.
Saldívar has asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to accept a petition that challenges her conviction. She claims the petition was filed in 2000 with the 214th District Court, but was never sent to the higher court. Her request was received on March 31, 2008, the thirteenth anniversary of Selena's death.
Portrayal in film
- Trial of Selena's accused murderer begins Monday. CNN, October 9, 1995
- Patoski page 134
- Sam Howe Verhovek (April 1, 1995). "Grammy Winning Singer Selena Killed in Shooting at Texas Motel". The New York Times. p. 1.
- Patoski page 132
- New York Times 1995.
- "Testimony of Richard Fredrickson". Houston Chronicle, October 13, 1995. Retrieved on February 1, 2008.
- Mitchell 1995.
- "October 12, 1995 testimony of Carla Anthony". Houston Chronicle, October 12, 1995. Retrieved on May 21, 2008.
- "October 12, 1995, the testimony of Norma Martinez". Houston Chronicle, October 12, 1995. Retrieved on February 1, 2008.
- Villafranca, Armando and Reinert, Patty. "Singer Selena shot to death". Houston Chronicle, April 1, 1995. Retrieved on February 1, 2008.
- "Yolanda Saldivar found guilty of Selena's murder". CNN. October 23, 1995. Archived from the original on June 18, 2002. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
- "Selena's killer receives life sentence". CNN. October 26, 1995. Archived from the original on June 12, 2002. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
- Bennett, David. "Somber Saldivar delivered to prison – Convicted murderer of Tejano star Selena keeps head down during processing." San Antonio Express-News. November 23, 1995. Retrieved on September 26, 2010.
- "Offender Information Detail Saldivar, Yolanda." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on January 02, 2013."
- "Offender Rules And Regulations For Visitation." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on July 23, 2015.
- Gun That Killed Singer Is To Be Destroyed. The New York Times, June 8, 2002
- Mary Ann Cavazos (April 1, 2008). Selena's Killer Asks Court to Review Writ. Accessed April 6, 2008.