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Selena
Selena Quintanilla Perez

Gunshot
March 31, 1995
Age 23

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OBITUARY

Singer Selena Shot to Death in Texas

By Sue Anne Pressley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 1, 1995

AUSTIN, TEX., MARCH 31 -- She was known simply as Selena, and, with her bustiers, high boots and lusty voice, she was often described as the Mexican American Madonna. In an incident that has left thousands of fans grieving, Selena Quintanilla Perez, 23, was shot to death this morning at a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi, cutting short a career that had already brought her a Grammy and the promise of superstardom.

The shooting was reported shortly before noon, and late into the night police negotiated with a female suspect who was sitting in a red pickup truck in the motel parking lot and threatening suicide by holding a gun to her head, said police Capt. J.D. Brewer. Brewer, who would not release the suspect's name, said the woman, who surrendered shortly before 10 p.m. (11 p.m. EST), is Hispanic and about 34 years old. He would not speculate about a motive for the shooting.

But Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, said the woman was Yolanda Saldivar, who had been president of Selena's fan club before she was hired at one of the singer's boutiques. Quintanilla told the Dallas Morning News that Saldivar "was a disgruntled employee. We suspected her of embezzling money, and we started closing in on her and she just went bananas."

"She lured Selena to the parking lot of a motel supposedly to hand over some bank statements and papers, and then she shot her," he said.

Quintanilla said the woman had authority to write checks from Selena's business checking accounts, and his daughter recently had become suspicious about money taken from fan club accounts.

Selena, whose vivacious singing and dancing had brought her fame throughout the Southwest and, increasingly, throughout the country, won a Grammy last year for best Mexican American album for "Live." More recently, her album "Amor Prohibido," or "Forbidden Love," went quadruple platinum, with the song of the same name garnering another Grammy nomination this year. In the popular world of Tejano music -- a modernized version of the old accordion-based Tex-Mex style called conjunto -- she was known as "The First Lady," and today her fans were stunned by the tragedy.

"This will probably be known as the Black Friday of the Tejano music industry," said Rudy Trevino, executive director of the Texas Talent Musicians Association in San Antonio and sponsor of the annual Tejano Music Awards. Selena recently shone at the Tejano awards ceremony, winning seven honors, including best album, best song, best video and female entertainer of the year.

"She had so many fans who loved her and had watched her career blossom into superstardom. She was on top of the world," Trevino said. "She will be greatly missed."

While Selena cultivated a sexy stage presence -- "like Madonna, but not so vulgar," said fan Arlene Tarango of Austin -- she was also known for her focus on family values. She began singing at age 5 in Corpus Christi with Los Dinos, the band started by her father, who is now her manager; her husband, Chris Perez, played guitar in her band. They had no children.

In a 1994 interview with the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, Selena described her music as "polka . . . a little bit of country, a little bit of jazz," and confessed that she had once been shy. "But I would say," she added slyly, "I've broken out of that shell."

At her concerts, male admirers often tossed their cowboy hats onto the stage and tried to storm the platform, arms outstretched to embrace her.

Long a popular fixture in the Southwest, where radio stations today played her songs and callers talked sadly about the tragedy, Selena had branched out in recent years, playing in Washington, New York and other East Coast venues. Daniel Bueno, the promoter who arranged her most recent appearance at the D.C. Armory, called her "a young rising star" and said, "When I heard the news, something happened to me, and I started crying.

"She meant a lot to Hispanics in terms of identity," he said. "She was one of the Latinos, the young Americans, who made it. I was talking to her father last night about her next tour. She was coming back to Washington in September."

Trevino, of the Tejano Music Awards, said Selena recently had begun recording in English, which was her first language. He had no doubt, he said, that her best career years were ahead.

She was booked to perform tonight, Bueno said, at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles.

© Copyright 1995 The Washington Post

 

Singer Selena shot to death

By ARMANDO VILLAFRANCA, PATTY REINERT
Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

CORPUS CHRISTI -- Tejano music sensation Selena was shot to death Friday by a woman, identified as a former fan club president and ex-employee, who then threatened to kill herself and kept lawmen at bay for more than nine hours before surrendering.

The standoff ended about 9:30 p.m., with police leading the suspect safely away from the red pickup she had been in, parked outside the motel where the slaying occurred. Police handcuffed her and covered her with a police jacket before placing her in a squad car and driving away.

A crowd of about 100 people, which had been held across the street, cheered, clapped and ran after the police car as it drove away.

"It was just continuous talking and negotiating with our negotiators," said Corpus Christi Police Chief Henry Garrett. "She demanded nothing, and she finally gave up. It's been a long day, and it's finally over."

Garrett identified the suspect as Yolanda Saldivar, 32. Garrett, who said no charges would be filed until today, declined to provide details of the crime or the negotiations.

Selena , a 23-year-old Grammy award-winning singer, was idolized by Hispanic teen-agers and was on the verge of breaking into English-speaking radio. The lead singer of the band Selena y Los Dinos died of a gunshot wound at Memorial Medical Center in Corpus Christi at 1:05 p.m.

Her full name was Selena Quintanilla Perez.

Assistant Police Chief Ken Bung said the shooting happened about 11:50 a.m. at the Days Inn off Interstate 37 on the city's north side. He declined to say whether Selena had been shot in a room, or whether she or the suspect had registered there.

"It started in a room and ended up in a lobby," Bung said. The singer "got to the lobby on her own power." A motel employee called 911, he said.

Bung said police were keeping mum because Saldivar was monitoring the truck radio; he would not say whether the truck belonged to Saldivar. Most stations in Corpus Christi played tributes to the recording artist throughout the standoff.

At a news conference at Memorial Medical Center, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., Selena's father, said Saldivar was his daughter's former fan club president and had worked at Selena Etc., a Corpus Christi boutique she owned.

Media reports also said Saldivar had been fired as manager of Selena's store.

Onlookers and fans grew restless as the standoff continued and a light rain began to fall.

Among the onlookers was Lisa Rios, 13, a close friend of Selena's family members, who was at Martin Middle School when news of Selena's shooting spread quickly through the hallways.

"It was on the radio and TV, and pretty soon the whole school knew," she said. "There was a lot of talk, and then my best friend came up to me and told me she died."

For Rios, like many Hispanic teen-age girls in the crowd, Selena was the performer they followed and emulated.

"She knew how to sing. She sang just exactly what we wanted to hear," Rios said.

At the homes of Quintanilla and her family, three side-by-side on a street in a Corpus Christi westside neighborhood, hundreds of fans paid tribute to the singer by holding a candlelight vigil across the street. Hundreds of flowers and wreaths were later hung on a chain-link fence surrounding the spacious homes.

Griselda Holguin, 23, and husband Miguel Gonzalez, 32, had just left Brownsville for their San Antonio home when they sang along with a Selena song on the radio Como La Flor (Like the Flower), not realizing the station was playing the song as a tribute.

"It was just a shock. It kept us quiet until we got here," Holguin said as she stood across the street from the motel. "It's hard to imagine someone dead when you think of her dancing."

Her husband said he told his wife, as they headed for a detour through Corpus Christi, that the shooting reminded him of the murder of John Lennon and the effect the former Beatle's death had on his fans.

"You turn on your radio and that's all you hear about, it was just like John Lennon," he said.

As the standoff continued into the evening, tactical unit officers kept watch around the woman, who sat in a red pickup and talked to officers off and on with a cellular telephone they had provided. Occasionally, the woman raised a small-caliber handgun to her right temple.

The truck was blocked by a squad car behind it and faced an open field in front. At dusk, police installed portable generator-powered lights. Officers shone the intense light on the pickup.

The only activity throughout the standoff was the release of a frightened motel maid at about 6 p.m. The maid had barricaded herself in a downstairs motel room about 20 yards from the truck. She stayed there until an officer escorted her to safety behind a bulletproof shield.

The hottest star ever to come out of Tejano music, the Grammy-winning Selena dominated this year's annual Tejano Music Awards, winning six of 15 categories, including entertainer of the year. Her music has topped the Billboard charts for most of the past year.

Her 1994 hit Amor Prohibido (Forbidden Love) went to No. 1 on the International Latin chart and was nominated for a Grammy. She was working on an English-language crossover album to be released later this year.

In February, her performance at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo attracted a record Sunday crowd of 61,000-plus.

Born in Lake Jackson, Selena Quintanilla made her public performing debut at 8 and cut her first album in her early teens. Her father, Abraham Quintanilla, who once managed a restaurant in Lake Jackson, was her manager.

He helped her launch her career after the family moved to Corpus Christi when his Lake Jackson restaurant went out of business.

Selena's brother, A.B. Quintanilla, has written and produced many of her hits. She was married to Christopher Perez, a musician in her band.

Known for her Madonnalike style and clothing, the 23-year-old star was fond of wearing bustiers and skintight, midriff-baring clothes.

 

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BIOGRAPHY

The tragic shooting death of Tejano singer Selena spawned a reaction within the Latino community that can be compared to the reactions to the deaths of Elvis Presley and John Lennon.  An enormously popular singer in Latino communities across North America, her music crossed cultural boundaries to touch the lives of young and old alike. A flamboyant, sexy stage performer, sometimes hailed as the Latina Madonna, Selena was nonetheless considered a role model. Off-stage she was family oriented, active in anti-drug campaigns and AIDS awareness programs. 

She was born Selena Quintanilla to Mexican-American parents in Lake Jackson, TX.   Before her birth, her father Abraham had been a member of Los Dinos. When Selena began performing at the age of ten, her father became her manager and Los Dinos  became her backing band. In 1983, she made her recording debut in 1983 after appearing on popular the radio show of L.A. deejay Johnnie Canales.

While Selena grew up understanding Spanish, English was her first language. Her first records were  recorded in Spanish and she sang the words phonetically. After her music began to catch on, she  began learning Spanish formally and by the time of her death, she was fluent in the language. 

In the '80s, Selena married Los Dinos' lead guitarist Chris Perez. Other group members included her brother, Abraham Quintanilla, III, who played bass and penned many of her songs, and her sister Suzette, the drummer. By 1987, she was named Female Vocalist of the Year and Performer of the  Year at the Tejano Music Awards.

Two years later she signed with EMI Latin and in 1990, she and Los Dinos released their eponymous debut album. Later that year she released a singles compilation, Personal Best, and she also released Ven Conmigo.

 In 1991 the title track of the latter became the  first Tejano record to go gold. Selena also released two more albums, including one of Cumbia  music, Baila Esta Cumbia that year.  She won her first Grammy in 1993 for Best Mexican  American Performance for her album Selena Live. That same year, she released an album of love songs, Quiero, and she also opened Selena Etc, a clothing manufacturing business.  In 1994, she  made her feature-film debut in Don Juan DeMarco, in which she played a singer.  Later that year,  she and her band embarked upon a tour of New York, LA, Argentina, and Puerto Rico.   Amor Prohibido was released in 1994; the record's title track won a Grammy and went gold.  In 1995,  Selena began preparing to make her breakthrough into the American pop mainstream.

 

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LATEST NEWS

 

Gun used to kill singer Selena destroyed

June 11, 2002 Posted: 10:11 AM EDT (1411 GMT)
 guni

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (Reuters) -- The revolver used to kill Grammy-winning singer Selena was chopped into pieces and thrown into Corpus Christi Bay, Texas, Monday, in line with a recent court order to destroy the weapon.

"We took the weapon and cut it up into about 30 pieces," said Nueces County Sheriff's Captain Paul Rivera who led the investigation into Selena's murder at a Corpus Christi motel on March 31, 1995 and oversaw the destruction of the weapon.

Selena won the Grammy for Best Mexican-American/Tejano Music Performance in 1993 and was on the verge of crossing over into the English-language pop market when she was killed at age 23.

Yolanda Saldivar, the president of Selena's fan club, was convicted of the crime and is serving a life sentence. Prosecutors said Saldivar feared she was about to be fired for stealing from Selena and shot her in the back after an argument.

District Attorney Carlos Valdez recently obtained a court order for the destruction of the gun after it turned up in the home of the court reporter at Saldivar's trial.

Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, supported the request to destroy the weapon and was on hand to witness it.

Rivera said pieces of the .38 caliber Taurus revolver were tossed into the bay from a sheriff's department boat.

"The water is about 16 feet deep and very choppy," he said. "I don't think anybody would risk going out there to look for pieces of the weapon."

Attorneys representing memorabilia collectors had opposed the gun's destruction, arguing it could fetch thousands of dollars.

 

Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Six years after death, Selena mania still evident
By Helena Rodriguez

Some people remember exactly what they were doing when JFK was shot on Nov. 22, 1963.

I remember exactly what I was doing on March 31, 1995.

I was sitting inside my cubicle at the Muleshoe Journal when my dad called, “Have you heard, they shot Selena?”

I couldn’t believe it. Several false rumors had been spread in the Tejano music circuit before. I immediately called a former co-worker, Laura Sanchez, who was at home watching the story unfold on TV.

We only had an old transistor radio in the darkroom, so I went to my car and clicked on the nearest Tejano radio station in Lubbock, which was already broadcasting details of the shocking event that was still developing.

“Tejano music queen, Selena, lost her life today in Corpus Christi, shot by her fan club president. The news is shaking San Antonio (the capitol of Tejano music) like an earthquake …” the DJ proclaimed.

That was almost six years ago.

This Saturday marks the sixth anniversary of Selena’s death, an unforgettable day that has had a profound effect on me and millions of other Selena fans — those who have followed her career since the beginning and new ones who came along after the release of her English album and the blockbuster “Selena” movie.

I intently watched as Selena’s face — so familiar to many and yet a complete stranger to many others — was flashed on TV. It was a compelling story because of the circumstances, but I wondered how the media would play it. My biggest fear was that this singer, whom I spent countless hours listening to while in college and who set a record concert attendance at the Alamodome, would soon be forgotten.

The next day, the Amarillo Globe-News ran the story on an inside page while the New York Times and other major newspapers had front-page spreads that unleashed a media flurry.

Much to my dismay — and relief — Selena has not been forgotten. In fact, she brought national attention to the Tejano music genre, which was exploding at the time.

While the “Selena Forever” musical was canceled last year because of poor attendance, Selena is still a hot marketing icon.

Just last month, Wal-Mart began distributing a line of Selena fashions on a trial basis in selected markets (the nearest ones are in Dallas and Lubbock), and the late singer’s family has opened a Selena Museum inside their Q Productions studio.

There’s also a Selena Foundation, Selena Auditorium and Memorial, Selena boutiques and tours of landmark Selena sites in her hometown of Corpus Christi.

There’s even an “Amor Prohibido” or “Prohibited Love,” perfume, titled after her hit song, as well as dozens of Selena Web sites, including an eBay site where you can bid on Selena memorabilia.

One of my biggest regrets is not going to see Selena when I had the chance. Less than a year before her death, she performed on a weeknight in Clovis, N.M., only 20 miles from my hometown. I asked my sister, who was visiting from Alabama, to go with me. Unfortunately, I decided I was too tired and didn’t want to fight the crowds. I figured I could see her next time she performed in Lubbock.

That never happened.

Contact entertainment writer Helena Rodriguez at 676-6761, or by e-mail at rodriguezh@abinews.com.

 

 
Aug. 26, 2001, 5:39PM

LOOKING BACK

News of singer Selena's death hit fans hard

Selena Quintanilla Perez, just 23 and already a Tejano singing sensation, was on the brink of crossing over to the mainstream U.S. pop market.

But her bright star was extinguished at 11:50 a.m. March 31, 1995, when she was gunned down in a Corpus Christi Days Inn motel by Yolanda Saldivar.

The front page of the April 1, 1995, Chronicle carried news of Tejano singer Selena's death and of the suspect who was taken after a standoff with police. Later stories reported that the suspect, Yolanda Saldivar, had taken thousands of dollars from Selena's business.

Saldivar, 34, had recently been relieved of her duties as fan club president and manager of Selena's boutique, accused of defrauding Selena out of thousands of dollars.

Saldivar had promised to clear everything up. There were reports that Saldivar had claimed she had been raped and, playing on the singer's sympathy, had asked Selena to come see her that Friday morning.

As Selena began walking out of the motel room, Saldivar pulled out what witnesses described as a "cowboy gun" and shot her once in the back.

Selena made her way to the lobby before collapsing. Saldivar fled to a borrowed parked truck where, threatening suicide, she held police at bay for 9 1/2 hours until finally giving up.

On Sunday, April 2, 1995, the Chronicle reported that Saldivar had deposited checks in various bank accounts under fictitious names.

Jimmy Gonzalez, Selena's marketing director, was quoted as saying, "We had a meeting with her about three weeks ago and brought these accusations to her and I guess this triggered this woman off.

"Checks were made out to her instead of the fan club. She was instructing the fans to make them out to her name."

Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, said his daughter was the "trusting victim of an obsessed, 'unbalanced' fan who stole thousands of dollars from the singer's businesses and then killed Selena after realizing she had been cut from her life."

As soon as the news hit, fans flocked to Corpus Christi, gathering at the motel, Selena's boutique, studio and home.

Near the home, a man sold T-shirts with a photo of Selena inside a coffin. At the Days Inn, motel management said fans were causing problems.

"There have been a lot of souvenir-seekers, and they're doing some damage to the property," Corpus Christi Police Chief Henry Garrett said. "They were chipping the concrete and breaking off the shrubbery."

The Monday, April 3, Chronicle reported that thousands of mourners had waited for hours on Sunday to make their way through the Corpus Christi Convention Center, where Selena's body lay in a "closed black coffin surrounded by white roses."

Some skeptical fans doubted that the singer was inside the coffin and her family felt pressured to open it just an hour before visitation ended that evening. A reported 20,000 mourners passed the casket.

Fans outside of Corpus Christi held vigils and kept up with the constant media coverage, especially on the Spanish-language television and radio stations. Many radio stations played only Selena songs while letting fans express their grief the entire weekend.

Retailers could not keep up with demand for albums by the Grammy Award-winning singer. Chronicle Music Editor Rick Mitchell reported that local distributors and Selena's record label, Capitol EMI, could not fill orders.

"It's biggest in Texas, but this is a national event," said Robert Guillerman, vice president of Southwest Wholesale. "She's the first one that died when she was at the top of her game. All these titles were doing well before she died. I don't think they'll do anything but keep selling more."

On Tuesday, April 11, Chronicle reporters Mitchell and Mike McDaniel wrote that her label would release a tribute album that would feature mostly unreleased Spanish and English songs. The English songs would be part of an all-English album, Dreaming of You.

Six months later, Saldivar went on trial for murder, not in Corpus Christi, but Houston.

"It's just a great place," state District Judge Mike Westergren said, noting the large pool of potential jurors. "It's a big city, and the closest big city that would be acceptable to everybody."

Hundreds of fans converged on the grounds of the Harris County Criminal Courts building, some to express their anger and others to get a chance to sit in on the trial.

In an Oct. 10 article, reporter Allan Turner wrote that "for the opening day of the trial, the street outside the courthouse was crowded with satellite television trucks, and mounted police were patrolling the area."

Throughout the trial, Saldivar maintained her innocence, claiming the shooting was accidental. She said she carried the gun to protect herself from Selena's father.

But after a 21/2 week trial, the jury of six men and six women found her guilty of murder and sentenced her to life. She must serve 30 years before being eligible for parole.

"Tears, cheers and honking car horns mixed with the strains of Selena's music on boom boxes outside the Harris County Courthouse where a crowd of about 200 people celebrated Yolanda Saldivar's guilty verdict Monday," reported Jo Ann Zuńiga and R.A. Dyer on Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Shortly after the verdict, Saldivar, who had been held in Nueces County Jail in Corpus Christi, reported to the Reception and Diagnostic Center in Gatesville, a women's prison 110 miles southwest of Dallas and 250 miles north of Corpus Christi. On Nov. 22, she became one of the 1,800 women prisoners.

"I just think her mood reflected the fact that she was quite down. She seemed sad," said David Nunnelee of theTexas Department of Criminal Justice. "She looked down at the floor most of the time she was in there during the processing."

On Dec. 22, the Chronicle reported that Saldivar's lawyers were seeking a retrial, citing the prosecution's failure to notify them that a key witness had once been convicted of theft.

Maria Norma Martinez, a maid at the motel, was said to be the only one to have seen the shooting. She claimed to have heard Saldivar call Selena a "bitch."

The prosecution used the remark to discredit the defense's claim that the shooting was accidental.

The following week, Judge Westergren denied the request for a new trial. He called prosecutors' action "somewhat problematic," but decided an appeals court should decide on a retrial.

The appeals court twice denied a petition for retrial -- first on Oct. 3, 1998, then again on Aug. 19, 1999.

On the sixth anniversary of Selena's death, thousands of fans flocked to Corpus Christi, many of them around the statue of Selena erected on Shoreline Boulevard.

"Just look out here," said Nicola Jones, who had traveled from England for the occasion. "You can see she touched people of all ages and races."

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