Two days after being accused of embezzling funds as president of the Selena fan club, Yolanda Saldivar applied to buy the gun that killed the Tejano singing star, witnesses at her murder trial said.

Saldivar told gun store employees that she needed the weapon because relatives of mentally ill people for whom she worked were threatening to kill her.Her attorney, Douglas Tinker, said in opening statements Wednesday that during a meeting with Selena at a Corpus Christi motel, Saldivar was waving the gun and it accidentally went off.

A prosecutor, however, told jurors that the March 31 shooting was a "senseless and cowardly act of violence."

Saldivar, 35, rose from fan club president to overseer of the Grammy-winning singer's clothing business. On the day of the slaying, 23-year-old Selena had gone to the motel to fire her for allegedly embezzling $30,000.

If convicted of murder, Saldivar could get up to life in prison.

Tinker said his client went to A Place To Shoot, a gun store in San Antonio, on March 11 to buy a gun to protect herself from the harassment of Selena's father.

Two shop employees testified that after a background check came up clean, Saldivar was allowed to purchase a .38-caliber handgun on March 13.

She returned it two days later, but bought it again on March 26, five days before Selena was shot.

While denying he threatened Saldivar, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., Selena's father and manager, testified that he confronted her in January with complaints from parents who said they bought their children $22 memberships in the Selena Fan Club being run by Saldivar, but received nothing.

Quintanilla testified that Saldivar told him those parents were trying to get Selena items for free, but he said a review of club records made him believe she was stealing money.

The singer, whose full name was Selena Quintanilla Perez, was beloved by fellow Mexican-Americans who listened to Tejano, a spirited Spanish-language blend of country and polka.

More than 2.5 million copies of her albums have sold since her death.