Yolanda Saldívar began her path down the murderous road when she founded the Selena Fan Club in 1991, before working her way all the way up to a trusted confidant for the singer. But after Selena Quintanilla’s dad, Abraham Quintanilla, found hints that Saldívar was embezzling money from the singer’s boutiques, the father-manager demanded she prove her innocence. The prospect of losing everything she loved inadvertently drove Saldívar to kill the singer.
“Yolanda wanted to kill Selena because Selena was firing Yolanda. She wouldn’t exist if she didn’t have Selena. And if she didn’t work for Selena, she didn’t want to work for anybody,” Carlos Valdez, a district judge in Nueces County, Texas who served as the lead prosecutor in Saldívar subsequent murder trial, later told A&E Real Crime.
Saldívar started a fan club for the singer and managed her boutiques
Saldívar’s relationship with the Quintanillas started in 1991 — the same year the then-30-year-old received her license as a registered nurse — when she contacted Abraham to talk about starting a fan club for the Tejano singer.
Saldívar had attended one of Selena’s concerts and wanted to start a club in San Antonio, which later grew to over 1,500 members in the four years she was involved. As the fan club thrived under Saldívar’s leadership, the Quintanillas began to entrust her with more and more responsibilities.
Saldívar was eventually promoted to manage Selena’s new boutiques for her clothing line and even controlled the singer’s business checking accounts. Saldívar also had a key to the home Selena shared with her husband, guitarist Chris Pérez.
The registered nurse quickly became intrinsically involved in Selena’s life, though others around her saw several red flags about her obsessive behavior.
Her devotion to Selena turned into a possessive attachment
By several accounts, it seems Saldívar started becoming dangerously obsessed with the singer she admired. According to an article published in Texas Monthly shortly after Selena’s death, Saldívar’s apartment was “like a shrine” for the singer.
Martin Gomez, one of the designers who shared office space with Saldívar, was also alarmed with her attachment.
"She was very vindictive. She was very possessive of Selena," Gomez, then 30, told The Washington Post days after Selena’s death.
"She'd get, like, very angry if you crossed her. She would play so many mind games, say people had said things they hadn't said,” he explained. “So many things would happen to the clothing I was working on. I knew that I had finished a certain piece, but I would come back from a trip to New York and the hems would be ripped out. It was very strange."
Gomez eventually quit his job after several strange run-ins with Saldívar, six weeks before she killed Selena. He left with a final warning to the singer.
"The last call I had with Selena, the last call, I told her to be careful," Gomez recalled saying. "It was very weird. I was very afraid of Yolanda. But I never thought she would hurt Selena. I never thought it would come to this."
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A confrontation between the pair preceded Selena's murder
After people started reaching out to Abraham about missed payments and receiving nothing from the fan club after paying dues, he began to investigate Saldívar and became convinced she was embezzling money.
On March 9, 1995, Abraham, Selena and her sister Suzette confronted Saldívar and accused her of stealing money from the boutiques and the fan club. Abraham fired Saldívar on the spot, though Selena reportedly kept in contact with her as she needed several financial documents Saldívar had.
Saldívar stalled for weeks before telling Selena to meet her at a motel on March 31 so she could provide the records. After briefly stalling again by telling Selena she had been sexually assaulted in Mexico, which resulted in a trip to the hospital, the two women returned to the Days Inn in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Selena once again demanded the documents.
Saldívar finally turned them over, but as Selena left the room, Saldívar pulled out the gun she had bought days earlier and shot Selena under her right shoulder. Doctors would later discover the bullet severed the young singer’s artery.
Eyewitnesses at the scene later recalled the scary encounter — and it didn’t seem like an accident.
“The fact that Yolanda Saldívar came out of the room immediately after the shooting with a gun in her hand, pointed it at Selena…and then calling her a b***h‘ as [Selena] was running away: all that indicates an intentional act,” Valdez told A&E Real Crime. “If it had been an accident, the reaction would’ve been completely different.”
Selena was able to identify Saldívar as her shooter before dying
While heavily bleeding, Selena was able to run to the lobby and identify Saldívar as her shooter before collapsing. The Grammy-winner was rushed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead due to blood loss and cardiac arrest while undergoing emergency surgery.
While Selena died at the hospital, Saldívar stayed on the scene of the crime for hours in a standoff with police. The nurse had locked herself in her car, threatening to kill herself with the same gun.
“I was on the phone with her for seven and a half hours,” Larry Rucker Young, lead negotiator with the Corpus Christi Police Department, told A&E Real Crime. “Yolanda didn’t ask for anything. What she wanted, really, was to hear what was going on with Selena. Her condition.”
“She wanted someone to hear her story,” he continued. “That they are best friends. That she loves Selena. She admires Selena. She would do anything for her.”
Saldívar was sentenced to prison after a short jury deliberation
Saldívar was charged with first-degree murder and was put on trial, with her main defense being that she had fired accidentally.
After a short three-hour deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict on October 23, 1995. Three days later, Saldívar was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years.
Saldívar is currently serving her sentence at Mountain View Unit, a maximum-security women’s prison in Gatesville, Texas. She’ll be eligible for parole in 2025.