Jury selection to begin in Tejano music star's slaying Selena fan club founder is charged with murder

October 08, 1995|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

HOUSTON -- Jury selection begins tomorrow in the trial of Yolanda Saldivar, who is accused of fatally shooting Selena, the Tejano music star whose death at age 23 catapulted her into the realm of cultural icon.

Officials say security measures will be extensive for the trial, which was moved to Houston because of publicity in Corpus Christi, the late singer's hometown and the place where she was gunned down March 31.

"Ms. Saldivar is classified as a high-risk or maximum-custody inmate," said Maj. Mark Kellar of the Harris County Sheriff's Department, adding that she is being kept away from other inmates in the county jail. She is charged with first-degree murder, and bond has been set at $200,000.

Court officials are trying to prepare for the intense interest of fans. Selena's popularity was evident when 30,000 people filed past her coffin. Her last concert, in February at the Houston Astrodome, drew 61,000 people. Since her death, cars are often seen bearing yellow ribbons, messages on windshields and portraits on --boards, all in memory of Selena.

Although news media interest is high, the trial judge, Mike Westergren from Corpus Christi, has banned cameras from the courtroom and forbidden interviews to be conducted in the courthouse.

At the time of her death, Selena, whose full name was Selena Quintanilla Perez, had already achieved single-name celebrity status and a Grammy award as the undisputed queen of Tejano music, a modern blend of European and Mexican-influenced polkas, backed by accordions and country guitars.

"She's gotten bigger in death than she was in life, which is often the case with popular culture heroes," said Dr. Tatcho Mindiola Jr. of the Center for Mexican-American Studies at the University of Houston. "There's a sense of loss that she was so young and never reached her full potential."

Ms. Saldivar, 35, was the founder of the Selena fan club and had managed one of the singer's clothing boutiques.

On March 31, Selena met with Ms. Saldivar at a Days Inn in Corpus Christi to retrieve some financial records. During their noon meeting, Selena was shot once. She died about an hour later at Memorial Medical Center.

The singer's father, Abraham Quintanilla, said Ms. Saldivar was a "disgruntled employee" who had been fired, he asserted, for embezzling $30,000; a grand jury is expected to consider those allegations after the murder trial.

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