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Testimony Begins In Selena Shooting

October 12, 1995

HOUSTON (AP) _ The former Selena fan club president accused of murdering the Tejano singing star was waving a gun and it accidentally went off, a defense attorney told a jury in his opening statement Wednesday.

A prosecutor, however, told jurors that the shooting March 31 at a Corpus Christi motel was a ``senseless and cowardly act of violence.″

``The perpetrator of that act, the person sitting in this courtroom, Yolanda Saldivar, shot her in the back,″ District Attorney Carlos Valdez said.

Ms. Saldivar, 35, rose from fan club president to overseer of the Grammy-winning singer’s clothing business. On the day of the slaying, Selena had gone to the motel to fire her for allegedly embezzling $30,000.

Defense attorney Douglas Tinker argued that Ms. Saldivar did not realize Selena had been hit by the .38-caliber handgun she was holding.

``She waves it around. The gun just went off,″ Tinker said, adding that Ms. Saldivar told police the story ``repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly.″

If convicted, Saldivar could get up to life in prison.

Tinker maintained that Ms. Saldivar had been harassed by Selena’s father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., and bought the handgun in March to protect herself against increasing confrontations with Quintanilla.

The defense lawyer portrayed Quintanilla as an overbearing stage father who pulled his daughter out of school in eighth grade so she could devote more time to a music career.

``He lived vicariously through her,″ Tinker said. ``He (Quintanilla) ended up with a large part of the financial award of her success.″

Quintanilla, the first prosecution witness, denied defense claims that he was domineering over his three children.

``I don’t control their lives,″ Quintanilla said. ``They’re adults.

Quintanilla also denied threatening Ms. Saldivar. He said he confronted her in January after getting complaints from parents who said they bought their children $22 memberships in the Selena Fan Club, which had been organized and run by Ms. Salvidar, but received nothing.

Quintanilla testified Ms. Saldivar told him those parents just were trying to get a second T-shirt, biography sheet and picture of Selena for free. But he said a review of club records made him believe she was stealing.

``I told her I was going to go to the police and make an investigation for embezzlement,″ he said.

Chris Perez, the singer’s husband, and Suzette Arriaga, her sister, also denied Quintanilla controlled their activities and supported his statements that he never threatened Ms. Saldivar.

The family confronted Ms. Saldivar at a meeting March 9 at Quintanilla’s office to discuss missing fan club records and were dissatisfied with her answers, Ms. Arriaga said.

Officials at the Harris County courthouse had expected as many as 2,000 Selena fans to participate in a lottery for 25 public seats at the trial. But when the tickets were distributed around 8 a.m., only 48 people were in line.

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