Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez became a global household name when her life was cut short in 1995, at the age of 23—and her shocking death was all the more tragic because she was killed by someone she trusted.
Widely known simply as Selena, she began her path to becoming one of the most celebrated Mexican-American entertainers of her era as a child. As the first episode of Netflix’s “Selena: The Series” depicts, her father encouraged her as a young girl to tap into her Mexican heritage to speak to the world through her music. In 1981, he formed the band Selena y Los Dinos, in which she performed alongside siblings. Then in 1989, she recorded her first solo album.
By 1994, Selena had released her best-selling Latin album, “Amor Prohibido,” and was quickly becoming known as the Mexican-American Madonna, as Time magazine noted in 2015. She was also dubbed the Queen of Tejano by her fan base. A year later, she crossed over into English-language music with her 1995 album “Dreaming of You,” which featured the iconic song of the same name. Sadly, she was murdered before she could see the full extent of the album's success.
Selena’s massive career was cut short when she was gunned down in March 1995 by Yolanda Saldívar at a Texas motel, just days before her 24th birthday. The nine-episode Netflix series, which is set for release on Friday, focuses on Selena's inspirational rise and her relationship with her family and husband before her untimely death. The series does not dwell on her murder, and in fact, concludes with an episode that introduces Saldívar's character.
Saldívar entered Selena’s good graces by founding a fan club for the singer in 1991. She was soon trusted so dearly that she was hired to manage Selena’s clothing boutiques, Selena Etc. However, just weeks before the killing, the singer’s family suspected that Saldívar had been mismanaging the boutique and embezzling money. She was fired as a result, as the New York Times reported in 1995.
On March 31, 1995, Selena agreed to meet Saldívar at a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi, Texas—but the meeting to discuss the suspected embezzlement ended in tragedy. Saldívar shot Selena in the back before initiating a nine-hour-standoff in the motel’s parking lot, the Houston Chronicle reported at the time. For most of the standoff, Saldívar sat in a vehicle with a gun held to her head.
During Saldívar’s trial, her defense attorney argued that the shooting had been accidental—Saldívar even told “20/20” in 1995 that at the moment of the killing, she was threatening to shoot herself when the gun accidentally fired. Regardless, the jury seemed to believe that the shooting was in retaliation for the firing. Those in Selena’s circle claimed that Saldívar was obsessed with Selena to the point of possessiveness, Texas Monthly reported in 1995. Saldívar’s home was even described as a “shrine” to the singer.
The jury deliberated for less than 12 hours before declaring Saldívar guilty of first-degree murder in October 1995, CNN reported.
Saldívar is currently serving a life sentence at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas and has lost several appeals to reverse her conviction, Houston outlet KTRK reported earlier this year. In 2015, rumors spread that she was found dead in her cell, Billboard reported at the time.
She will be eligible for parole in 2025 — 30 years after Selena’s murder.
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