Selena Quintanilla was one of the most famous Latina singers of modern music. She revolutionized the Tejano musical genre, earning the nickname the Queen of Tejano Music. But what turned the fashionista and singer into a true icon may have been her tragic murder in 1995 when she was 23 years old.
How Did Selena Quintanilla Die?
Latina musician Selena Quintanilla Perez was murdered on March 31, 1995. The cause of her death was a gunshot to the back. The bullet hit her subclavian artery on the right side, causing massive blood loss. Her official cause of death was a hypovolemic shock.
Quintanilla was shot by Yolanda Saldívar, a close friend and the president of her San Antonio-based fan club. The murder took place after an altercation at the Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi.
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Who is Yolanda Saldívar?
Yolanda Saldívar was a passionate fan of Selena, having seen her performance for the first time in the early 1990s. She decided to start a San Antonio-based fan club and contacted the singer’s father several times to ask if she could be the club president. After meeting in person, Abraham Quintanilla agreed.
Saldívar met Selena in December 1991. She was soon deeply entrenched in the singer’s life. She not only managed the fan club but also became a trusted friend of the entire Quintanilla family.
As club president, Saldívar’s main duties involved signing people up to be members and collecting dues. These were intended to pay for Selena-themed merchandise and keep them on a list to get notifications of upcoming events and concerts.
Several people noted Saldívar’s devotion to Selena over the years. She had a large collection of the singer’s memorabilia and was noted for her high enthusiasm in fulfilling tasks as fan club president.
Selena’s Boutiques & Allegations of Fraud
In the mid-1990s, Selena turned her sights to opening a chain of boutiques in Texas and Mexico. She opened two locations in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Texas, and was planning on opening a third location in Monterrey, Mexico. Selena appointed Saldívar as the manager of the Selena, Etc. boutiques.
Over the next few years, however, the boutiques began rapidly losing money. Employees frequently complained that Saldívar was draconian in the workplace, firing associates that she didn’t like.
Most concerningly, however, was the disappearance of funds. The boutique accounts did not have enough money to pay the bills. Saldívar had free access to these accounts, both via bank details and through several company credit cards.
In January 1995, Selena’s cousin Debra Ramirez was employed to help navigate the addition of the Mexico boutique. Ramirez quit the job after just a week, citing concerns about missing sales receipts. When she confronted Saldívar, she told her to mind her own business.
Ramirez wasn’t the only person to complain about missing funds. Selena’s fashion designer, Martin Gomez, also clashed with Saldívar; he later told the singer he had not been paid for past work.
By 1995, letters were pouring in from fans saying that they had paid their registration fee to sign up for the San Antonio fan club, but hadn’t received the merchandise and other perks they had been promised.
Selena rebuffed the complaints from all sides, including warnings from her own father, who said that he worried about Saldívar’s trustworthiness. She struggled to believe that her friend could be taking advantage of her and said that her father was prone to be negative and suspicious of people.
Things came to a head in January 1995 when Selena’s father investigated the complaints against Saldívar. He found that, in addition to charging the company cards for non-business expenses, she had embezzled roughly $60,000 between funds from the boutiques and stolen fan-club fees.
In early March of that year, Selena’s father called a meeting with Saldívar, his daughter, and several other associates to ask her about the lost money. Saldívar protested the accusations, making a variety of excuses for the disappearance of the funds. At other times, she simply said nothing, and eventually, she stormed out of the meeting.
At first, Selena was hesitant to fire Saldívar because of their friendship and because she was so deeply entrenched in her financial and business affairs. She eventually capitulated and said that she would terminate her employment soon.
Throughout March 1995, Saldívar’s behavior became increasingly alarming; Selena’s father forbade her from contacting his daughter. Over the following weeks, he claimed, she attempted to kill the singer four times. Eventually, she was able to convince Selena to meet with her at a motel in Corpus Christi after telling her she had endured a sexual assault and needed support.
March 31, 1995
Selena met Saldívar in her motel room to discuss some missing financial statements. During this time, their conversation escalated into an argument, and the singer formally fired her. Saldívar pointed a gun at her; when Selena turned to run, she shot her in the back, striking her right shoulder.
Critically wounded, Selena ran toward the motel lobby, screaming for help. Motel staff helped her barricade herself in the lobby and called emergency services. They also attempted to staunch the flow of blood from her shoulder; unbeknownst to them, the bullet had struck a major artery. The singer fainted from blood loss before ambulances arrived—only two minutes after they had been called. Her condition deteriorated so rapidly that she was already beyond help when they arrived. She was transported to Corpus Christi Hospital, where she was declared dead. She was 23 years old.
After the singer was transported to the hospital, Saldívar attempted to leave the motel. She was stopped by police, leading to a nine-hour standoff. During this time, she alternately claimed that the gun had gone off accidentally or that she had shot Selena in a panic; she also threatened to kill herself. By the end of the standoff, a large crowd of Selena’s fans had gathered by the motel.
Saldívar was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 30 years.
Selena’s death had an indescribable effect on the Latin-American community, both in the United States and elsewhere. She was honored by politicians and fellow celebrities, while public vigils took place around the country. Nearly 40,000 fans attended her funeral, with 600 friends and family members attending her private burial.
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