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Selena kin testify Saldivar embezzled

By
PAULA DITTRICK

HOUSTON, Oct. 11 -- The father, husband and sister of the late Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla Perez testified Wednesday that they believed the woman accused of killing Selena was stealing from her fan club and business. Yolanda Saldivar, 35, has pleaded innocent of murder for shooting Selena at a Corpus Christi motel March 31. After the shooting, she sat in a pickup truck with a gun while holding off police for more than nine hours. She is being tried in Houston on a change of venue. Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., testified that he suspected Saldivar was stealing money from the Selena fan club that Saldivar had founded and of which she was the president. The fan club was a non-profit organization and profits were to go to charities. Quintanilla said he began receiving complaints from people who paid membership fees but who said they never got anything in return. He also has accused Saldivar of stealing from the singer's business accounts regarding clothing boutiques, which Saldivar managed. A grand jury will not consider embezzlement allegations until after the murder trial, prosecutors have said. Testimony ended Wednesday about 4:20 p.m. and was scheduled to resume Thursday morning. Quintanilla said he confronted Saldivar about the fan club records at a March 9 meeting in Corpus Christi, which Selena and her sister Suzette Quintanilla Arriaga also attended. 'I told her (Saldivar) that I was going to go to the police and make an investigation for embezzlement,' Quintanilla said.

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He said he also saw Saldivar on March 10 because she was at the office of Selena Etc. Inc. in Corpus Christi, and he told her she was no longer welcome there. In other testimony, Selena's husband, Chris Perez, and Arriaga both confirmed that Selena had fired Saldivar from managing her stores because of suspicions Saldivar was stealing from the business accounts. 'Selena and I didn't trust her because there were a lot of things coming up unaccounted for, and we couldn't get an explanation,' Perez said. He said he and Selena were in the process of trying to get some bank statements from Saldivar, and that in the meantime, Selena was telling Saldivar she could set up a clothing business for Selena in Mexico. Selena met with Saldivar the night of March 30 at the motel at about midnight and got some documents, Perez said. But he said Selena realized upon getting home that some paperwork remained missing. He said he was at home sleeping when Selena left their home the morning of March 31, the day that she was shot. Defense attorney Doug Tinker contends Quintanilla was a controlling father who did not want Selena associating with Saldivar. Quintanilla, Perez and Arriaga all denied that. In opening statements, Tinker said recorded telephone conversations with police during that standoff will show that Saldivar told officers the shooting was an accident. He said a Texas Ranger will confirm the statement. This is not mentioned in a confession that Saldivar gave police after she surrendered, Tinker said. District Attorney Carlos Valdez told jurors to expect many witnesses in the trial as he sets the stage for the slaying of the 23-year-old Grammy Award-winning singer in Corpus Christi, her hometown. In other testimony, Mike McDonald of A Place to Shoot, a gun store and range in San Antonio, testified that Saldivar bought a revolver, then returned it, and later came back again and bought it after all on March 26. McDonald said Saldivar told him she was a home nurse for terminally ill patients and that she was getting some threats from family members of her patients. Earlier, Judge Mike Westergren overruled a defense motion that blacks were improperly excluded from the jury. The jury is composed of four Hispanics, seven whites and one black. There are six men and six women. No alternates were selected because Westergren wanted to ensure that opening statements would start Wednesday as planned.

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