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Selena Named Suspect as Killer, Witness Testifies : Courts: Motel clerk says singer screamed, 'Lock the door! She'll shoot me again!' and named 'Yolanda . . . ' in the chaos after gunfire.

October 14, 1995|From Reuters

HOUSTON — Tejano singer Selena, mortally wounded and terrified, identified her killer as she lay dying on the floor of a motel lobby, a witness said Friday in the trial of the woman accused of murdering her.

Shawna Vela, a desk clerk at the Days Inn in Corpus Christi, Tex., told the jury the last words of Selena Quintanilla Perez were "Yolanda . . . 158" after she was shot by Yolanda Saldivar on March 31 in what prosecutors said was a business dispute. Selena had gone to Room 158 to collect business records from Saldivar.

Saldivar, founder of Selena's fan club and manager of her clothing boutiques, faces life in prison if convicted of intentionally murdering the singer. If the jury decides the shooting was an accident, as her lawyers argue, she could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years.

Vela said chaos erupted as Selena burst through a set of doors into the lobby, her clothes soaked in blood from a gunshot wound to her back.

"Help me! Help me! I've been shot!" she recalled a terrified Selena screaming. "Lock the door! She'll shoot me again!"

The singer then slumped to the floor, her hands over the wound where the bullet, fired from a .38-caliber pistol, had exited from the right side of her chest, severing an artery.

Paramedics testified that they arrived at the motel within two minutes of the shooting to find Selena unconscious from a loss of blood and not breathing.

"Blood was thick from her neck to her knees," said paramedic Richard Frederickson, referring to the sweat suit she wore, which soaked up most of the blood. The ambulance crew could not revive her as they transported Selena to a regional trauma center.

"There was no pulse," Frederickson said.

Defense attorney Douglas Tinker has acknowledged that Saldivar shot Selena, but he said the shooting was accidental. In opening arguments, he said a hysterical Saldivar was holding a gun to her head and threatening to kill herself when she accidentally fired the fatal bullet into Selena.

He said the tragedy was triggered by Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, who, he said, drove Saldivar to near madness with threats aimed at breaking up her friendship with his daughter.

But prosecutors say Saldivar shot Selena in anger after the singer fired her for allegedly embezzling money from her businesses.

Witnesses on Thursday said they saw a gun-wielding Saldivar chasing Selena through the motel courtyard and cursing.

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