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Nearly three decades after the death of Selena Quintanilla Pérez, the woman convicted of her murder is speaking out in a new documentary.
Yolanda Saldívar, 63, has been in prison since 1995 for the killing of the iconic Mexican-American singer, known to her fans as the "Queen of Tejano" music.
Saldívar will be eligible for parole in 2025, and is sharing her story in an Oxygen docuseries, “Selena & Yolanda: The Secrets Between Them.” (Oxygen is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of TODAY.com.)
The three-part series airing Feb. 17 and 18 features new interviews with Saldívar, as well as interviews with prosecutors, the hostage negotiator who spoke to Saldívar after Selena’s death, and police detectives who were on the scene in the aftermath of the murder, according to Oxygen.
In the series, Saldívar claims she did not intentionally kill Selena on that fateful day at a motel in Corpus Christi, Texas. Saldívar, who served as the president of the singer’s fan club and was the manager of two of her clothing boutiques, dismissed the long-held theory that she was embezzling money. Instead, Saldívar alleges that Selena was having an extramarital affair and tasked Saldívar with making purchases on her behalf to help cover up the tryst. Saldívar says she was simply paying herself back and that Selena was aware. But in the docuseries, Saldívar did not provide any evidence to substantiate her claims.
“After so many years, I think it’s time to set the story straight,” Saldívar said in a trailer for the series.
“I knew her secrets,” Saldívar said later in the trailer. “And I think that people deserve to know the truth.”
Before the documentary aired, it was met with backlash on social media, with some fans calling the project disrespectful to Selena's memory.
“I am not supporting anything that has to do with Yolanda Saldívar. I will never ever watch or support the Yolanda Saldívar Series on Oxygen and I would strongly encourage that if you really love Selena you don’t either. I don’t care about Yolanda’s life or history,” one person wrote on the X platform.
I am not supporting anything that has to do with Yolanda Saldivar. I will never ever watch or support the Yolanda Saldivar Series on Oxygen and I would strongly encourage that if you really love Selena you don’t either. I don’t care about Yolanda’s life or history.
— Verme (@Verme216) February 7, 2024
“It’s vile that Oxygen is giving yolanda saldívar a documentary moment when she clearly doesn’t need one,” another person wrote on X. “Releasing this doc a month before (Selena's) death anniversary and doing it all is distasteful & disrespectful.”
It’s vile that Oxygen is giving yolanda saldivar a documentary moment when she clearly doesn’t need one.
We know the story. Selena’s family knows. Even Chris.
Releasing this doc a month before her death anniversary and doing it all is distasteful & disrespectful. pic.twitter.com/vDaVyC5y0f
— ✪𝕹𝖆𝖙𝖆𝖑𝖎𝖆 𝕺𝖗𝖙𝖎𝖟⧗𝕽𝖔𝖒𝖆𝖓𝖔𝖋𝖋⍟ (@ScarletWidow901) February 4, 2024
After the doc aired, viewers reacted online, with one commenting on X that Yolanda was "acting like the victim."
"You were not guilty in the court of public opinion," the person wrote. "You literally admitted to killing Selena and Selena confessed you did it on her death bed."
Another added that Yolanda's family was "in deep denial" about what Yolanda's actions.
"WHO cares if she got a new job! SHE SHOT AND KILLED SELENA, HELLO?!," the person wrote on X. "Whatever happened in that hotel rm pissed Yolanda off to the point where she pointed the damn gun at Selena AND KILLED HER. Period."
Selena’s family also slammed the docuseries for giving Saldívar a platform.
“No one’s gonna believe what she has to say anyway. Everyone knows there’s zero truth to anything that comes out of her mouth,” Selena’s father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., told TMZ.
Selena’s family declined to participate in the docuseries. NBC News has reached out to the family’s spokesperson, as well as Abraham Quintanilla Jr. directly, for comment regarding Saldívar’s claims.
Read on to learn more about Yolanda Saldívar.
Who is Yolanda Saldívar?
Yolanda Saldívar was a registered nurse who founded served as president of Quintanilla's fan club, and later managed two of the singer’s clothing boutiques.
Saldívar was fired in early 1995 after the singer’s family accused her of embezzling money from Selena’s fan club and boutiques, according to NBC News.
Selena’s widower, Chris Pérez, testified in court that he and Selena had removed Saldívar from the singer’s checking accounts because they “didn’t trust her,” according to a court document from the Texas Court of Appeals from 1998, when Saldivar unsuccessfully appealed her murder conviction.
“There was a lot of things that were coming up, you know, unaccounted for, and we couldn’t get an explanation that we were satisfied with for some of those things,” Perez told prosecutor Carlos Valdez, according to the 1998 court document.
Perez also testified that Saldívar was removed from the accounts about two weeks before his late wife’s death.
Of what crime was Saldívar convicted?
On March 31, 1995, Saldívar shot and killed Selena at a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi, Texas. The singer was 23.
According to the 1998 case document from the Texas Court of Appeals, Selena “ran from the room toward the lobby of the motel, screaming,” and Saldívar “followed her in armed pursuit.”
Selena collapsed in the motel lobby, and was able to identify Saldívar as the person who had shot her before passing out, according to the 1998 court document.
Then, for more than nine hours, Saldívar sat in her truck in the motel parking lot and threatened to commit suicide, the same court document states. After hours of conversation with a hostage negotiation team, she surrendered to police.
A jury in Houston, Texas, found Saldívar guilty of first-degree murder on Oct. 23, 1995. Three days later, she was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
Saldívar is currently imprisoned at the Patrick L. O’Daniel Unit prison in Gatesville, Texas, according to her inmate record from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
She will be eligible for parole on March 30, 2025.
What has Saldívar said about Selena in the past?
Saldívar has said that she did not deliberately kill Selena.
“They made me out to be a monster, and I just want to say, I did not kill Selena. It was an accident, and my conscience is clear,” she said in a 1995 interview with ABC’s “20/20.”
In the same interview, Saldívar offered her version of what happened the day Selena died.
Saldívar claimed she and Selena were having a dispute at the Days Inn motel and that in a heated moment, she (Saldívar) put a gun to her head and threatened to take her own life. Saldívar claimed that she then waved her gun in the direction of the door, and accidentally shot Selena.
The prosecutor in the singer’s trial argued that Selena’s killing was not accidental, according to the 1998 court document.
In an interview with “Behind the Music” in 1998, Saldívar opened up about her relationship with Selena throughout the early ‘90s, and explained why she had founded a fan club devoted to the singer.
“Going through my college years, I had no social life. I had none because I devoted myself to my university, my career, my license,” she said. “Now it was time for me to have fun.”
Selena’s father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., also shared his earlier memories of Saldívar in the “Behind the Music” special.
“At one time, my whole family liked Yolanda,” he said. “We would invite her to come eat at our house. We’d have a get together, and we’d invite her.”
Saldívar said her connection to Selena “had grown from being just a fan-celebrity type to this personal type of relationship.”
In her 1995 “20/20” interview, she also said that Selena sometimes even called her “Mom.”
“She was like a cuddly bear, teddy bear, that — she would allow you to love her,” Saldívar said. “I told her that I loved her like a daughter. And she goes, ‘You know, I give you that right.’ She would call me ‘Mom’ on the phone.”
The singer’s family has questioned whether Selena ever called Saldívar “mom,” according to “20/20.”
In the trailer for the upcoming Oxygen documentary, Saldívar seems to suggest that she has previously undisclosed information to share about the circumstances of Selena's death.
“My family gathered the evidence, showed different versions of what was going on,” Saldivar says in the trailer.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com