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Jury Gives Death Sentence to Woman Who Killed Singer

October 26, 1995 GMT

HOUSTON (AP) _ A jury handed Selena’s killer the maximum penalty of life in prison Thursday, meaning Yolanda Saldivar will be locked up until at least the year 2025.

A cheer went up outside the courthouse from fans of the beloved Tejano singing star, and car horns blared.

``This is a time when you can scream in the middle of the street. Yeah!,″ said Natividad Rodriguez, 54, a fan of the Grammy-winning singer.

The jury deliberated nine hours over two days before deciding among seven punishment options ranging from probation to life in prison.

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Defense attorneys argued that Ms. Saldivar, who went from Selena fan club founder to manager of her boutiques, had paid a heavy enough penalty with her murder conviction and should get probation. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum.

The life sentence means Ms. Saldivar, 35, will have to serve at least 30 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

Ms. Saldivar, wearing a white suit, sobbed upon hearing hearing the jury’s sentence. Her family, seated directly behind her, also wept.

There was no immediate reaction from members of Selena’s family, seated at the other side of the courtroom.

On Monday, the jury took two hours to convict Ms. Saldivar of shooting 23-year-old Selena Quintanilla Perez on March 31 at a motel in Corpus Christi.

Prosecutors contended Ms. Saldivar deliberately shot Selena because she was about to be fired for embezzling $30,000.

The defense had argued that the shooting was a tragic accident that happened when Ms. Saldivar’s .38-caliber revolver went off mistakenly.

Ms. Saldivar did not face the death penalty because the crime contained none of the aggravating circumstances required under Texas law, such as a multiple murder or a murder committed during a robbery.