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Murder Trial of Selena’s Store Manager Enters Week Two

October 16, 1995

HOUSTON (AP) _ A police officer testified today that the woman on trial for the shooting of Tejano singer Selena was able to manipulate the firing mechanism of a gun she was waving and pointing at herself after the killing.

The testimony was aimed at showing defendant Yolanda Saldivar was familiar with the operation of the five-shot, .38-caliber revolver she held as police confronted her March 31.

``There was a point, about the middle of the conversation, that the gun went from single action to double action,″ police Sgt. John Houston testified. Single action means the revolver’s hammer must be cocked by hand before each shot. Double-action means a squeeze of the trigger cocks and fires.

The defense claims Ms. Saldivar was hysterical and shot Selena by accident while waving a gun.

The Corpus Christi police sergeant said he found the 35-year-old Ms. Saldivar seated in her pickup in a motel parking lot as the fatally wounded Selena was being removed by ambulance.

Ms. Saldivar was distraught, threatened to kill herself and held the revolver to her head with her finger on the trigger and the hammer cocked, Houston testified. He said he talked with the armed, sometimes hysterical woman for about three hours and she changed the weapon’s firing position at least twice.

Asked by prosecutor Mark Skurka if changing the hammer position was easy, Houston replied: ``Depending on the skill of the person.″

Houston said Ms. Saldivar never claimed during the confrontation that the shooting was an accident: ``She never stated it or implied it.″

Houston said Ms. Saldivar blamed the shooting on the singer’s father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., but also said she had problems with Selena as well.

``She said, `He made me shoot, he made me shoot her,‴ Houston said, adding that she talked about the father ``coming between us.″

In opening statements last week, defense attorneys contended the Grammy-winning singer was being manipulated by a domineering father intent on running his daughter’s career and life. Quintanilla, the state’s first witness last week, denied the defense claim.

More than halfway through their case, prosecutors have portrayed Selena, 23, as a naive young artist whose trust was betrayed by Ms. Saldivar, a manipulative former fan club president. If convicted of murder, she could be sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors contend the slaying was deliberate and took place after Selena went to the motel to sever ties with the assistant suspected of embezzling $30,000 from Selena’s two boutiques.

Last week, former motel employees gave dramatic testimony about Selena’s final minutes in which she said Ms. Saldivar had shot her. But a defense attorney, Fred Hagans, said the prosecution had yet to present a witness who could say the shooting was deliberate.

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