Some people can’t go near a cliff without walking off. It’s an old colloquialism, but it still rings true even today. Those who are prone to bad decisions, regardless of life experience, seem determined, despite their best interests, to sabotage themselves in risky, self-destructive ways.
Yolanda of San Antonio, Texas was no stranger to making difficult choices. As a nurse, she made them all the time. Then, one day, life came at her with singular opportunity. All that remained was making the right decision…
Featured Photo Credit: Larofab @ Youtube
It’s not easy being the youngest in a family of nine. Yolanda was the youngest of her parents’ seven children, but her parents from San Antonio, Texas worked every day to ensure that not one of their kids went without. Her father, Frank, who was a head waiter at Jacala, a Mexican restaurant in the West End, worked day and night to provide for his family.
Yolanda grew up with a healthy appreciation for the power of education and after a rough start was eventually accepted at the University of Texas. She eventually transferred to Palo Alto College where she studied to become a registered nurse. Finally, after years of study, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. But she’d received something else while at college: an obsession with losing weight…
Living and Loving
Despite her body image problems, Yolanda was doing quite well for herself. Her nursing career earned her a healthy $60,000 a year and allowed her to live a fairly comfortable, if slightly busy, life. She never married, but eventually decided she wanted kids of her own and ended up adopting three children, including one of her nieces.
Soon enough, Yolanda’s troubles with the law began. Her former employer, a dermatologist named Dr. Faustino Gomez, ended up suing her for $9,200 which he said she stole from him. They settled out of court, but soon she was having trouble with her student loan company and the debt she’d incurred. It was the first clue that something with Yolanda was not what it seemed…
Her legal troubles behind her, Yolanda soon began finding new obsessions to consume her leisure time. She soon became a fan of Tejano music, a popular mix of folk and pop music with influences in the Mexican-American community, and even began attending artists’ concerts regularly.
It was at one of these concerts, by artist Shelly Lares, that she decided to pluck up the courage to make her way backstage and ask Lares about starting an official fan club. Yolanda wanted to be part of her artists’ world and she knew the best way to do that was to show her appreciation. Unfortunately, Lares’ father Fred didn’t approve…
Yolanda Saldívar’s request to build a Shelly Lares fan club was declined by her father. According to him, only members of the Lares family should work with the singer in any capacity. Disheartened, Yolanda returned to work. Soon after though, one of her music friends suggested that she go see another Tejano singer who had become pretty popular…
Queen of Tejano
This new artist, a young Mexican-American named Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, or Selena for short, was to become the “Queen of Tejano Music” and Yolanda seemed to be on the ground floor. She originally disliked her because she felt Selena’s domination of the Tejano Music Awards ruined the chances for her favorite artists. Soon though, she learned to appreciate her talent…
After attending a single concert, Yolanda was hooked. Selena was her new idol and she wanted to be a part of her life. So, heart in hand, she found a way to contact Selena’s father, Abraham Quintanilla, Jr. in order to ask him the same question he’s asked Frank Lares: to start a fan club for his daughter in San Antonio. Eventually, her persistence paid off and Quintanilla agreed and even made her the club’s president.
Moving on Up
The fan club was a success and had grown to over 5,000 members, which made it the largest fan club in the San Antonio area. In no time at all, Yolanda Saldívar had insinuated herself into Selena’s life. She was soon promoted from fan club president to manager of Selena’s clothing boutiques, ‘Selena Etc.’ Then, Yolanda’s old ways began to creep their way into her new life…
Not What She Seems
In the spring of 1995, Selena’s family began looking into the fiscal portion of both the official fan club and the boutiques. It was during the course of this investigation that they discovered Yolanda, who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar before, was embezzling money from both organizations, right under the family’s nose. She was fired on the spot.
Need Those Records
Unfortunately, the family still needed the financial records that were still in Yolanda’s possession. With no other choice, Selena agreed to meet Yolanda in person to retrieve them and clear the air. They agreed to meet at a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi, Texas. Before they could meet, however, Saldívar arrived at the meeting disheveled, telling Selena that she had been raped in Mexico just a few hours before…
Selena, being the good hearted woman she was, drove Saldívar to a local hospital to receive medical attention, which, as it turned out, she didn’t need. Doctors could find no evidence of rape and released her a few hours later. The two women returned to the hotel, where Selena demanded the financial paperwork.
Saldívar’s response was to draw a .38 Taurus Model 85 revolver from her purse and point it at the singer. Selena tried to flee, hoping that her former fan club’s love for her would stay her desperate hand. Sadly, that was not the case, Saldívar shot her once in the back as she got up to run. The bullet pierced an artery but Selena was still strong enough to make it to the lobby…
Saldívar chased her down, calling her a “bitch” as she ran. Selena collapsed on the floor as the clerk called 911 and Saldívar fled the scene. Selena was taken to the hospital, but the single shot had done its work. She died of exsanguination at 1:05 pm. Saldívar was picked up soon after, but the gun had been thrown into a river.
All eyes in the Latino community were on Saldívar’s murder trial, and though it wasn’t televised, everyone who ever loved Selena kept themselves abreast of any developments: including all of Yolanda’s former friends in the fan club. The trial was moved from San Antonio, Selena’s hometown, to Houston to prevent any unfairness in jury selection…
According to the defense, the shooting was entirely accidental. They even cross examined Texas Ranger Robert Garza, who explained that he had “overheard Saldívar claim the shooting was accidental, and that she objected when police failed to include it in her statement”. It was enough reasonable doubt that the judge might have to consider a lesser charge…
Proof in the Trigger
Unfortunately for Yolanda Saldívar guns like the one she had owned don’t “just go off accidentally.” A .38 caliber Taurus Model 85 revolver requires 11 pounds of pressure on the trigger to fire. The only way the gun could have discharged at all was if someone intentionally pulled the trigger…
The judge told the jury that there would be no option of a lesser charge. It was either a case of first-degree murder or not. The jury could not convict Saldívar of manslaughter or negligent homicide. With that in mind and given Saldívar’s history, there was really no choice.
Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before finding Yolanda Saldívar guilty of first-degree murder. She was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, but not until having served at least thirty years. This means that she won’t become eligible for parole until March 30, 2025, when she’s 65 years old.