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Selena's Killer Gets Life Term

The Associated Press
October 27, 1995

HOUSTON, OCT. 26 -- A jury handed the killer of singer Selena the maximum penalty of life in prison today, meaning Yolanda Saldivar will be locked up until at least the year 2025.

A cheer went up outside the courthouse from fans of the beloved Tejano singing star, and car horns blared.

"This is a time when you can scream in the middle of the street. Yeah!," said Natividad Rodriguez, 54, a fan of the Grammy-winning singer.

The jury deliberated nine hours over two days before deciding among seven punishment options ranging from probation to life in prison.

Defense attorneys argued that Saldivar, who went from Selena fan club founder to manager of her boutiques, had paid a heavy enough penalty with her murder conviction and should get probation. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum.

The life sentence means Saldivar, 35, will have to serve at least 30 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

Saldivar, wearing a white suit, sobbed upon hearing the jury's sentence. Her family, seated directly behind her, also wept.

There was no immediate reaction from members of Selena's family, seated at the other side of the courtroom.

Defense attorney Douglas Tinker promised an appeal.

"I was ready for the verdict. Yolanda was ready for the verdict," he said. "I kept telling her the fact that they're staying out a long time didn't mean it was going to be anything less than life.

"She's suffering mightily. She's scared to death she will be harmed where she goes."

Prosecutor Carlos Valdez praised the sentence.

"I think it's very strong message that people who are convicted of murder in Harris County face the most serious possible punishment under the law.

"This type of behavior will not be tolerated in organized society."

On Monday, the jury took two hours to convict Saldivar of shooting 23-year-old Selena Quintanilla Perez on March 31 at a motel in Corpus Christi. Prosecutors said Saldivar deliberately shot Selena because she was about to be fired for embezzling $30,000.

The defense had argued the shooting was a tragic accident that happened when Saldivar's .38-caliber revolver went off mistakenly.

Saldivar did not face the death penalty because the crime contained none of the aggravating circumstances required under Texas law, such as a multiple murder or a murder committed during a robbery.

© Copyright 1995 The Associated Press

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