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Selena Defendant Could Handle Gun, Officer Says

October 17, 1995|From Associated Press

HOUSTON — A hysterical Yolanda Saldivar held a gun to her head, her finger on the trigger and the hammer cocked, during a standoff with police after she fatally shot Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla Perez, two officers testified Monday.

But one officer, undermining defense claims that Selena's slaying occurred when the gun went off accidentally, said Saldivar knew enough about the weapon to manipulate the firing mechanism during the 9 1/2-hour standoff.

And officers who tried to persuade her to surrender during the March 31 standoff in a motel parking lot said she never told them the slaying was an accident.

Saldivar's lawyers say she was hysterically waving her .38-caliber revolver at the singer when it went off accidentally inside Room 158 at the Days Inn in Corpus Christi, Tex. The trial was moved to Houston because of heavy publicity.

Prosecutors contend Saldivar deliberately killed the singer when Selena went to the motel to sever ties to Saldivar, a former Selena fan club president suspected of embezzling $30,000 from the star's boutiques.

If convicted of murder, Saldivar could get life in prison.

Other witnesses testified that they saw Saldivar, gun pointed straight ahead, chasing the bleeding, screaming Selena across the motel courtyard to the lobby, where the 23-year-old Grammy winner collapsed and died. She had been shot in the back.

After the shooting, Saldivar, 35, sat in her red pickup with her gun to her head and said, "I did something very bad. I have disgraced my family," testified police officer Joe Claire.

Jurors listened to several hours of tape recordings of conversations between Saldivar and police hostage negotiator Larry Young.

"I want to kill myself," she wailed repeatedly on the tape. "I don't want to live anymore. I don't deserve to live after what I've done.

"Look what I've done to my best friend."

*

Defense lawyer Douglas Tinker asked Young whether Saldivar said numerous times that she did not mean to do the shooting.

"Yes, she did," Young replied.

On the tape, Saldivar blamed the shooting on the singer's father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., saying he had raped her and threatened to kill her family if she told anyone of the attack. The alleged assault occurred a month and a half earlier in her apartment, she said.

Quintanilla denied the allegations in earlier questioning by prosecutors. Defense attorneys have not yet cross-examined him.

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