Doctor Testifies Selena Clinically Brain Dead on Arrival At Hospital
HOUSTON (AP) _ Doctors treating a seriously wounded Selena managed to establish a brief but erratic heartbeat in an emergency room but the physician who pronounced her dead testified today that she was already brain dead by then.
``It was a futile effort,″ said Dr. Louis Elkins, a cardiac surgeon summoned to try to save the Grammy-winning Tejano singer after she was shot March 31.
``She had no evidence of neurological function,″ he said. ``There was no evidence of any blood flow to her brain. Her brain was not functioning. She was clinically brain dead.″
By the time Elkins reached the dying woman to prepare her for surgery, an emergency room doctor at Memorial Medical Center had reached into Selena’s chest and was manually massaging her heart, trying to stimulate the organ which had already stopped beating.
A breathing tube was forced down her throat as doctors because Selena had already ceased breathing on her own. A clamp was placed on the gushing artery in her collarbone which had been pierced by .38 caliber hollow point bullet.
``The subclavian artery was completely cut in two,″ Elkins said.
The testimony came as prosecutors neared completion of their murder case against Yolanda Saldivar, 35, a former Selena fan club president. Saldivar’s attorneys contend the shooting at a Corpus Christi motel was an accident.
Except for a few erratic heartbeats after Selena reached the surgeon’s table, the singer never again showed a sign of life. Even if Elkins had been able to get the heart to function, she would have been ``brain dead,″ he said.
Elkins said the 23-year-old singer received ``heroic″ efforts to save her, including blood transfusions, but the damage from a bullet that shredded her right shoulder, lung, veins and a major artery left ``a massive ongoing blood loss.″
Elkins’ testimony about blood transfusions addressed reports from Corpus Christi in the wake of her death that her father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., was upset with the transfusions due to his religious beliefs. Quintanilla is a Jehovah’s Witness, whose beliefs oppose such treatment.
In other testimony today, Carlos Cardona, a Corpus Christi police evidence technician, told of taking photographs of the crime scene and collecting evidence, including the bag Selena dropped outside the room where the shooting occurred.
Ms. Saldivar, 35, could get life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. The trial was moved to Houston because of heavy publicity.
On Wednesday, a Texas ranger testified that police left out the word ``accident″ in the written confession that Selena’s former fan club president signed in the slaying. Ms. Saldivar claims the gun went off accidentally.
``She hesitated to sign the statement because it didn’t have the word `accident’ or `accidental,‴ Texas Ranger Robert Garza testified Wednesday as he was cross-examined by the defense. ``It didn’t reflect what she had stated, according to her.″
Prosecutors say Ms. Saldivar, who rose from president of Selena’s fan club to manager of her clothing boutiques, deliberately killed Selena when they met to discuss the singer’s accusation that Ms. Saldivar had embezzled $30,000.