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Grammy Winning Mexican-American Singer Selena Shot to Death

April 1, 1995 GMT

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ Selena, whom one fan described as ``another Elvis Presley to me,″ was shot to death in a motel room, allegedly by the woman who founded her fan club.

``Tejano music, for one day, is dead,″ said Carlos Lopez, owner of bilingual station KMIQ in Corpus Christi.

Selena was one of the most popular figures in Tejano _ a modern, urban version of the Tex-Mex accordion-based music called conjunto. She had a following in Mexico and among Mexican-American teen-agers that was comparable to Madonna’s.

Her album, ``Selena Live,″ won a Grammy last year for best Mexican-American album. She was nominated for another Grammy this year for the song, ``Amor Prohibido″ (``Forbidden Love″).

Selena was shot twice in a room at a Days Inn, then fled to the lobby for help. She died at Memorial Medical Center.

Yolanda Saldivar was arrested late Friday after a nine-hour standoff with police. Authorities had no motive for the shooting, but Selena’s father and manager, Abraham Quintanilla, said he suspected Saldivar of embezzling money from the singer’s boutique and salon in Corpus Christi.

Saldivar had lured the 23-year-old singer to the motel in this South Texas city on the pretext of handing over some papers, Quintanilla said at a news conference.

After the shooting, Saldivar locked herself inside a pickup truck, holding a gun to her head and threatening to kill herself. She communicated with negotiators through a cellular phone.

Saldivar often wept and wrung her hands during the standoff. She left the gun in the truck, then stepped out and returned several times before finally giving up at 9:30 p.m.

``She was upset, very emotional. I’m pretty sure that she was remorseful,″ Assistant Chief Pete Alvarez said. ``She mentioned several times that she didn’t want to hurt anybody.″

Across from the motel parking lot, hundreds of onlookers stood in a light rain, staring at the pickup during the standoff. Others held candlelight vigils across Texas.

``She was a big celebrity, another Elvis Presley to me. I just can’t believe it,″ Janie Perez of Corpus Christi said at the shooting scene. ``She was just a little girl when she first started. I remember hearing her first song. She started getting better and better.″

As news of the killing spread, anxious fans called radio stations to ask if the reports were an April Fool’s joke.

``Fans are crying,″ said Pete Skaggs, program director for KBNA, a Tejano radio station in El Paso. ``They’re devastated. They’re in shock.″

Like Madonna, Selena was known for sexy stage costumes, including high boots and bustiers. But she was also emphasized family values and was married to band member Chris Perez.

``Everyone loved her and her music. ... She was at the height of her career,″ her former backup singer, Pete Astudillo, said as he wept.

Selena’s ``Fotos y Recuerdos″ (``Photographs and Memories″) is No. 4 on Billboard’s Latin chart this week. She was trying to cross over into the pop mainstream and was completing her first album in English.

``She was the artist who established the standard against which all other Tejano artists were weighed, and that was not limited to just the female artists,″ said Cameron Randle, vice president and general manager of Austin-based Arista-Texas.

Saldivar, 32, became a Selena fan after attending a concert in San Antonio five years ago, according to today’s editions of The Dallas Morning News.

``Selena just inspired me _ with her talent, her motivation. She gives her whole to you,″ she told the newspaper during a September 1994 interview.

She helped found Selena’s fan club in 1991 and later became a personal assistant and employee of Selena’s. Quintanilla said the family recently had confronted Saldivar about her handling of finances.

``We suspected her of embezzling money, and we started closing in on her and she just went bananas,″ he told the Morning News.

Selena was born Selena Quintanilla on April 16, 1971, in Lake Jackson, south of Houston. She began singing with Los Dinos, the Quintanilla family band, when she was 9.