Remembering Selena: ‘She Was Just An Amazing Soul’

The iconic musician was shot and killed by the president of her fan club almost three decades ago.

March 30, 2021
By: Aaron Rasmussen

On March 31, 1995, Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was shot and killed at the height of her musical career — but her legacy lives on almost three decades later.

“I [still] miss her face, her laughter. She was just an amazing soul, an amazing spirit,” Chris Pérez, who was 25 when his wife died, said on True Hollywood Story: Death of Innocence. “She taught me a lot. I used to never tell people I love them, you know? Or I miss them, or just give them gifts just because. I learned those things and many, many other things from her.”

The Rising Star Was An Inspiration

Selena, who was born and raised in Texas, got her start in entertainment when she began singing with her father’s band at 3 years old.

She eventually shot to fame performing Tejano music, which Selena once described as an eclectic mix of musical genres.

“It's got polka in it, a little bit of country, a little bit of jazz,” the “Amor Prohibido” singer explained, according to The New York Times. “Fuse all those types of music together. I think that's where you get Tejano.”

Selena became so representative of the style that she was known as the “Queen of Tejano,” and in March 1994 she proved she was deserving of the title when she took home a Grammy for best Mexican/Mexican-American album for Live!

Just over one year later, she was dead.

Selena’s husband, Pérez, said nobody ever thought losing her “was even a possibility.”

“On the road, we had security so I never really feared for her safety,” the guitarist said on True Hollywood Story. “You know, especially the way it happened to her. The fact that one of her friends did that, it's just unbelievable.”

Yolanda Saldívar seemed to be Selena’s biggest supporter. She ingratiated herself into the star’s circle after founding the musician’s official fan club, which led to a management position with the Selena Etc. clothing boutique in San Antonio.

The Ultimate Betrayal

Eventually, however, Selena’s family began to suspect Saldívar was embezzling money from the business and fired her. The singer’s father, Abraham Quintanilla, said Saldívar became a “disgruntled employee” as a result of the “discrepancies” coming to light, The New York Times reported.

After their falling out, Selena demanded Saldívar hand over sensitive company financial documents, and the two women eventually agreed to meet at a Days Inn in Corpus Christi.

According to police, Saldívar pulled out a gun during the motel room meeting and when Selena attempted to flee, she shot her in the back. The wounded singer managed to stumble to the lobby and was rushed to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead at age 23.

Still armed, Saldívar went to her pickup truck in the motel’s parking lot and was involved in a nine-hour standoff with police before she surrendered.

In recordings made during the tense negotiations and later played at Saldívar’s trial, the former Selena fan club founder claimed the shooting was an accident.

“She's gone. She's gone. I don't want to be alive because she isn't alive,” Saldívar said on the tapes, UPI reported at the time. “The world is going to be mad at me. I bought this gun to kill myself.”

According to Saldívar, she had waved the gun toward Selena when telling her to close the motel room’s door.

“The gun, it just went off. I didn't mean to kill her. I was trying to kill myself. It was a mistake,” she claimed on the recordings.

Selena would have celebrated her 24th birthday on April 16, 1995, just two weeks after she died.

Her Legacy Lives On

In August of that year, her posthumously released English-language album Dreaming of You debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and spent the next 49 weeks on the list.

Saldívar, now 60, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life behind bars. She is currently serving her time in Mountain View Unit, a maximum-security prison in Gatesville, Texas, and will be eligible for parole on March 30, 2025, online records show.

This March, Selena was honored with the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award at the 63rd Annual Grammys.

Watch this episode of The Crimes That Changed Us on discovery+ now.

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