04/01/1995

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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