Who killed Selena Quintanilla Perez? The story of the iconic singer's tragic death

Who killed Selena Quintanilla Perez? This is the heartbreaking true story of the much-loved performer's murder

Portrait of American singer Selena (born Selena Quintanilla-Perez, 1971 - 1995) at the 36th Annual Grammy Awards at Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York, March 1, 1994 and Mexican singer Selena performing in concert; one month later she would be shot and killed by Yolanda Saldivar, the pres. of her fan club, after confronting her on charges that she was embezzling funds.
(Image credit: Arlene Richie/Getty Images/Future)

Who killed Selena Quintanilla Perez? The music legend died back in 1995, and the story of her death is heartbreaking and shocking, and left a mark on the music industry for decades to come. 

Selena was a music sensation, reaching the height of her fame in the late 1980s and early '90s with legions of fans who were (and still are) obsessed with her fabulous outfits, and classic Selena songs like "Como La Flor," "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" and "I Could Fall in Love." In fact, she was one of the most iconic singers of the late 20th century.

But the Tejano superstar's life was cut heartbreakingly short in 1995 when she was tragically murdered. So whether you've watched the Netflix series about her, Selena: The Series, the JLo movie about her life, or if aren't as familiar with the pop icon, you might have questions about Selena Quintanilla Perez, her life story, her rise to success, and the circumstances surrounding her death.

If you were old enough to witness the tragedy, then you may already know the answer to who committed the crime against the singer—but it might still be a mystery for a lot of new or younger fans. So if you're wondering who killed Selena Quintanilla Perez, these are the details you should know.

Who was Selena Quintanilla Perez?

Before her untimely death, came Selena's incredible and eventful life. Born in Lake Johnson, Texas, Selena Quintanilla Perez was a Mexican-American singer known as the "Queen of Tejano Music." She was not only the first major Latin celebrity to break into the mainstream music industry, but her songs were a commercial and critical success, winning Grammys and topping charts. 

The singer also became a beauty icon for embracing her natural beauty, and refusing to conform to societal norms. Be it her curves, enhancing her features with her famous Selena makeup routine, or her iconic Selena outfits—the singer's look resulted in some of the best '90s looks to date, and solidified her as a true style icon.

American singer Selena (born Selena Quintanilla-Perez, 1971 - 1995) rides in a carriage during a performance at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo at the Houston Astrodome, Houston, Texas, February 26, 1995. The performance was her last before her murder the following month.

(Image credit: Arlene Richie/Getty Images)

Her life has been honored in many ways over the years, from artwork to cosmetics lines, and even a waxwork figure in her image Madame Tussauds New York. But possibly the most notable is the now iconic 1997 biopic, Selena, in which Jennifer Lopez played Quintanilla-Perez in one of her first acting roles.

Selena fans—both old and new—are also able to watch another dramatized version of her life via the Netflix show Selena: The Series, which was released back in 2020. Naturally however, the show raised many questions with new fans about what happened to the singer, including how Selena Quintanilla died, and who killed Selena Quintanilla Perez.

Who killed Selena Quintanilla Perez—and why?

The hugely popular performer was killed by a woman she actually knew very well. Selena was murdered by Yolanda Saldívar—not only was she the president of her fan club, but she also personally grew close to both Selena and the entire Quintanilla family, too.

As those who have already watched Selena: The Series will know, Selena first met Yolanda in 1991. Yolanda was a newly-qualified 30-year-old nurse in San Antonio, Texas, as well as a super fan of the singer. At the time, Yolanda was 11 years older than her idol, but she was passionate about her adoration for her. She even called Selena's father/manager, Abraham Isaac Quintanilla Jr., to ask permission to form the fan club she eventually headed up.

The club quickly amassed over 1,500 members, and Yolanda was dedicated to promoting the star, and was always by her side whenever she would visit Texas. In fact, she even later became the manager of Selena's two fashion boutiques in Texas, firmly cementing her place in the singer's life.

However, the loving relationship between the two quickly became toxic, as Yolanda grew obsessed with Selena—to the point where people around her and Selena's family were concerned about just how much she "loved" the singer. 

Selena (Quintanilla) receives Grammy Award at The 36th Annual Grammy Awards on March 1, 1994 in New York, New York at Radio City Music Hall.

(Image credit: Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Nevertheless, the friendship between the two continued for years, before Yolanda's fixation ultimately led to Selena's death. So what was the reason Selena Quintanilla died at the hands of her former friend?

On March 30, 1995, Yolanda checked into a local Days Inn in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she called Selena and asked to meet up. 

Leading up to this day, there had been a number of questions about how Yolanda was handling the finances of the Selena fan club, with serious concerns from Abraham and eventually, Selena herself. After Yolanda checked into the motel, the women met up the next day and ended up arguing over said financial documents.

How did Selena Quintanilla die? 

After arguing at the motel on on March 31, 1995, Selena headed for the door—but as she made her way out of the room, Yolanda took out a .38 revolver and pulled the trigger, shooting Selena in the back and fatally wounding her. Selena was declared dead at Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital, just 90 minutes after the shooting.

Although the medical team tried to revive her, the bullet that Yolanda Saldívar shot had severed an artery and Selena died of hypovolemic shock, with her death being pronounced at 1:05 pm.

Estella Leak (R) wipes away tears during a memorial tribute for the slain Grammy-winning pop star Selena 02 April at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Tejano music queen Selena was shot to death 31 March in Corpus Christi, Texas. On the left is Estella Leak's sister, Olivia.

(Image credit: JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty)

The news of the Selena murder sent shockwaves across the state, nation and the world, and two weeks after her death, on April 12, 1995, then-Texas governor George W. Bush commemorated the late singer by declaring her birthday "Selena Day" in the state of Texas. Selena Quintanilla's death hit the singer's fan base hard, and it's estimated that 30,000-40,000 of them came out to Corpus Christi to pay their respects at an open casket viewing, ahead of Selena's funeral.

While no one could have seen the murder coming, there have since been reports of Yolanda's obsessive behavior and her concerning 'fixation' with Selena.

A man called Martin Gomez, who was a designer at Selena's boutiques, told The Washington Post that Yolanda had a very 'vindictive' side to her. He said: "She was very vindictive. She was very possessive of Selena. 

"She'd get, like, very angry if you crossed her. She would play so many mind games, say people had said things they hadn't said."

He continued, addressing the pair's relationship: "Selena treated her very professionally. Selena was a darling girl, very sweet, very sweet, but I never, ever thought Selena treated her special. 

"She was nice to all of us. But it got to the point where Yolanda was the leeway between us and Selena, she was the voice, and she tried to shut everyone out."

How old was Selena Perez when she died?

Selena Quintanilla Perez was just 23 years old when she was killed. She left behind a husband, Chris Perez, and a loving family, including her parents, Marcella Ofelia Quintanilla, and Abraham Quintanilla Jr.

As mentioned, the Tejano superstar was killed at the end of March—just weeks before her 24th birthday, on 16 April. Her young age was one of the many reasons that the music world and Selena's fans, family and friends were left so shocked by her death. Had she lived, she would now be 52 years old. 

Did they give Selena blood at the hospital?

In the years since Selena's death, there have been rumors on social media and the internet that she was, for some reason, allegedly denied procedures at the hospital that could have saved her life.

One such rumor is that she was not given a blood transfusion, due to religious beliefs. However, her father Abraham Quintanilla has swiftly denied this speculation, telling 3 News that she was in fact given a blood transfusion as soon as she arrived.

Singer Selena (Quintanilla) performs at the opening of the Hard Rock Cafe on January 12th, 1995 in San Antonio, Texas

(Image credit: Larry Busacca/Getty)

He explained: "Selena was given blood by the doctor. When she arrived at the hospital at the emergency room after she was shot.

"For 26 years, I have read on social media, people criticizing me that Selena died because I didn't want to give her blood. That it was religious fanaticism. They are incorrect, completely incorrect."

What happened to Yolanda Saldívar? Did she get charged? 

As for Selena Quintanilla Perez's murderer, Yolanda Saldívar was charged and sent to prison after the killing. Immediately after shooting Selena though, Yolanda entered into a nine-hour stand-off with police, holding the gun to her head while negotiating with law enforcement.

On October 15, 1995, Saldívar went on trial in Houston for the murder of Selena. Her lawyer insisted that the shooting was an accident and that she meant to fire the gun at herself, according to The New York Times. However, she was eventually convicted of first-degree murder on October 24, 1995, following testimonies from Selena's father, husband, and sister.

Where is Yolanda Saldívar now?

Yolanda Saldívar is currently serving time at a maximum-security facility in Gatesville, Texas called Mountain View Unit, after being sentenced to life in prison.

It has however been reported that she is eligible for parole in 2025—30 years after she committed the horrific murder of Selena the singer. And according to The Messenger, Yolanda believes it is time for her to leave prison.

"She is a different person than she was in 1995. She would like to be paroled," one of her relatives told the publication. "She’s very religious now. She says God has forgiven her." However, there are obviously no guarantees, with a parole board required to view all necessary documentation before making a decision.

Ever since the murder, Yolanda has maintained her belief that the killing was an accident, saying that she was in fat holding the gun to her own head. In an interview with 20/20 News, she detailed the moment of the murder.

"I said, 'If you don't leave, I'm going to do it, Selena [referring to killing herself]'. And she said, 'Mom (a nickname Yolanda says Selena had for her), we need to talk about this, I'm going to close the door'

"And when she was walking towards the door, she was going at an angle. And I told her, 'Don't close the door', and in that instant, the gun went off."

Sagal Mohammed

Sagal is a journalist, specialising in lifestyle, pop culture, fashion and beauty.  She has written for a number of publications including Vogue, Glamour, Stylist, Evening Standard, Bustle, You Magazine, Dazed and Wonderland to name a few. 

With contributions from