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Trial Begins for Woman Accused of Killing Selena

October 10, 1995|SUE ANNE PRESSLEY | THE WASHINGTON POST

HOUSTON — Her grave in Corpus Christi has become a tourist stronghold. Every day, her fans bring baskets of silk flowers, sketches and poems.

Now the fans of singer Selena Quintanilla Perez are watching and waiting as the woman accused in her death goes on trial here.

Yolanda Saldivar, 35, was Selena's personal assistant and the president of her fan club when she was arrested for allegedly gunning down the 23-year-old star in a Corpus Christi motel on March 31.

As jury selection began Monday, fans outside the courthouse and others calling into Spanish-speaking radio programs throughout South Texas seemed most concerned about one thing: They do not want the image of their beloved Selena sullied by Saldivar's defense attorneys. They do not want to hear ugly things about their idol in the interests of freeing or lightening the sentence of her alleged killer.

"This trial is going to bring up deep feelings of loss and a lot of hurt," said Kathleen Jacquez, news director of KXTJ radio in Houston, a station specializing in the Tejano-style music that Selena performed. "It's important to note that in the O.J. [Simpson] trial, there were black-and-white issues. Here, it is almost more hurtful in some ways that it was one of our own."

Defense attorneys, led by folksy Corpus Christi lawyer Douglas Tinker, who in 1994 helped to defend the surviving followers of David A. Koresh's cult, hinted that they will pursue two strategies in seeking to prove that the shooting was accidental.

In pretrial hearings, they have tried to portray Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, 56, who was also her manager, as a controlling "star dad," whose personality forced Selena to form a close friendship with Saldivar. The lawyers will argue that Saldivar would never have purposely shot the young star whom she idolized.

They also will try to discredit an alleged confession Saldivar gave to Corpus Christi police after her arrest.

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