An up and coming Seattle musician is murdered.

Mia Zapata

Jesus Mezquia was arrested

CASE DETAILS

Since the 1990s, Seattle has been a hotspot for rock-n-roll music.  Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains all came out of the local music scene.  Many people thought the next breakthrough band would be the Gits, a punk rock group fronted by a charismatic 27-year-old named Mia Zapata.  Mat Dresdner, a former member of the Gits, was a personal friend of Mia’s:

“I went to many shows where afterwards people didn’t even know I was up on stage because their eyes were so transfixed on Mia.”

Did Mia take a cab that night?

But on July 7, 1993, Mia’s incredible voice was silenced.  At around 2:00 AM, she left a friend’s apartment.  An hour later, her body was found a couple of miles away.  She was lying face up in an almost Christ-like pose.  Mia Zapata had been raped, beaten, and then strangled to death.  Her death sent shock waves through the tight-knit music community in Seattle. Why had this promising and popular young singer been killed?  Was it an obsessed fan, a jealous enemy, or a complete stranger?

You might say Mia was born to be a star.  She grew up in Kentucky, the daughter of two television executives.  It was at Antioch College where she met the other three members of her band.  After five years of performing together, the Gits were attracting the attention of major record companies and planning their first full-scale U.S. tour.  According to Richard Zapata, it was like a dream come true for his daughter:

“I don’t think I can ever remember my daughter looking so satisfied, so content, so at ease with herself.”

The night of July 6, 1993, began at one of Mia’s favorite bars.  She met friends there at around 10:00 PM.  Mia was in town only briefly. She and the Gits had been on the road for three weeks and the tour was starting in a matter of days. When Mia left the Comet Tavern, she walked a block east, up Pike Street to a local rehearsal studio.  She then visited a friend who lived in the same building as the studio.  At around 2:00 AM, Mia left her friend’s apartment, saying she planned to take a cab home.  Because Mia didn’t have a driver’s license, she took taxis often and knew many of the local cabbies.  This led police and private investigator Leigh Hearon to one of their first scenarios—perhaps Mia was murdered by a cabdriver:

“Mia did not have difficulty expressing her opinion and sometimes this got her into trouble… She could’ve said something to a cabdriver that she knew that just made that person angry that night.”

However, none of the cab drivers reported picking up Mia that night.  About the same time, the bars were closing, and some of her friends were hailing cabs of their own.  No one saw Mia.  Private Investigator Leigh Hearon had a second theory:

“She also could’ve gone in the opposite direction.  A friend had asked her to spend the night. She lived about five blocks away. She could’ve gone down eleventh, past the reservoir, and something could’ve occurred there.”

In fact, something did occur.  But according to Hearon, whether it had anything to do with Mia’s death remains a mystery:

“One of the earliest clues that the police received was from a man who had heard a scream—a terrifying scream that night.  He was so distraught by it that he actually rushed to see what was going on, but he saw nothing.  He lived, however, very close to the reservoir on eleventh where Mia could’ve gone.”

A third and final theory was that Mia never left the building where she was last seen.  The day after her murder, one of Mia’s friends stopped by the rehearsal studio and discovered a Gits demo tape and Mia’s personal microphone.  According to Hearon, Mia rarely let her microphone out of sight:

“We don’t know whether she left it there after practice that night or whether she went back to the studio after visiting her friend.  Something happened there, and this was simply left.”

Mia’s body was found about two miles from the studio and about three miles from the street where the man heard the screams.  Despite a thorough search of the area, Detective Tom Pike of the Seattle Police Homicide Unit noted that little forensic evidence was found:

“This particular investigation has been difficult because we’re faced with a situation where we don’t know where the actual crime scene was where the murder took place. We obviously only know where we found Mia, which we don’t believe is the same.”

Without a crime scene or witnesses, leads quickly faded.  As the police investigation stalled, the remaining Gits decided to take action.  They hired private investigator Leigh Hearon and staged benefit concerts to raise money for the investigation.  The response was overwhelming.  Seattle’s leading musicians got involved, including Nirvana and rocker Joan Jett:

“I want more than anything for them to be able to find out what happened so there could be some resolution for everybody, because everyone’s been working real hard trying to find this person who did this.”

Who killed Mia Zapata and why? The police believe it was a random murder. But investigator Leigh Hearon believes otherwise. She is convinced that Mia knew her killer and that the killer may not have acted alone:

“I think it’s entirely likely that a second person was involved in transporting Mia’s body, if not in the actual homicide.  I base this on the fact that Mia’s body was found with her arms out and her legs crossed, as if two people had been carrying her and laid her down.”

Update:

Ten years after Mia Zapata was killed, Seattle police tested DNA from the case against a national database.  They found a match.  Jesus Mezquia, a felon living in Miami, Florida, was arrested and charged with murder.  Mezquia did not know Mia Zapata but lived just three blocks from where her body was found.  Mezquia was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 36 years in prison.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eight with Robert Stack and in season three with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

7 Comments

  1. Lilu

    I remember seeing this when I was younger with Robert Stack. I never knew that they found the killer. I am happy they found a killer. I wonder why he did it..

    Reply

    • Lea nichols

      My name is ( Lea Nichols) I know the killer the murder was not random and her last breath was taken with her drug connection and bandmate who was a tenant to a duplex apt that bordered the reservoir where screams had been heard minutes prior to death from my beautiful & soulful girlfriend Mia Zapata . The witness has never admitted the part she has played in this whole bloody night. She was selfish and addicted to heroin and it would have made her more than unpopular in the rock sceen and social clan of artists on the rise to fame . TheGits band would have been angry and blamed her in her supply of drugs that Mia was told it was quiting the (edit) or quit the band .the dealer/bandmate witnessed the crime of violence and then cried to her boyfriend about the something she had just seen – it was heard by next door renters/neighboors that were scared of drug gang violence and had not let police know . But they told there son who was a club & rave show booker . I met him in 93 and later all the facts came to a connection that shocked me and discusted me to look at the girl who was in our band . She could have told the truth , she lied to detectives and all to save her ass in the status of rockscene hihsters . She saw Mias killer but said nothing .i met a man who knew the killer back in cuba – the man said her killer dealt heroin and was one of the bigger H dealers in cuba ……i think i have said enough for now

      Reply

  2. Octabites Lea Nichols ( mia Zapata's ''understudy vocalist''

    The truth is more twisted and shocking to all who took any interest in what happened on that last night of her life . I was her understudy and best friend -her idea was to have me sing her vocalist fill of harmonic melodys she had to abandon with good reasons ”the gits” her first priority . The music was not the same with out her presents so she chose myself as the ”understudy” to standin her place -Asked on her behalf ,I accepted the invitation by those who played in the punk-rock harmonical band lead by her ex-fiance – Robert Jenkins /guitarist “HellsSmells” )this was in spring/summer 1993 & I was 19 years old . I will only say this to all interested in her real life and murder that is tragic and unforgettable. The last place mia was before she was dragged away screaming was at her friends house north side of capital hill water resevior …… this so called friend was not only in our band with us and sang alongside as the trio “hells bells” heroin dealing was the scare to the cowards lies from her lips – to avoid ”angry friends /social shame & dissapointments” the cover-up of truth in facts (maria) smoke screened selfish coward without morals ” in the last hour mia was seen alive. Twisted truth started with the lies of the only EYE-WITNESS = addict/dealer/drummer/vocalist- that kept her silent unreported witness of attack by killer as secret for what reasons could any one have that would be forgivable to the honor of mia . and cold case detectives know the truth but the public does not. I am now able to put together all I know personally and factually as a new case of truths to mia and killer . I know a Cuban man who new her killer in Cuba …..he told me that Jesus M. was the biggest heroin dealer in town they were both from ,and a life guard , lady’s man ….and shocking to all who knew him in Cuba …..common fact in points I’m making to this case is heroin connection to both and that killer was also involved in dealing to mia’s dealer .

    Reply

  3. GV

    Did she visit a friend in the Oddfellows Building? Doesn’t that face on the reservoir? Someone in a van probably asked her if she wanted to smoke pot and she passed out from drinking too heavily, then he probably groped her, she woke and screamed, he hit her, she passed out, then woke up screaming again and he strangled her. Just sayin.

    Reply

  4. Concerned Citizen

    Rest in peace Mia.

    Reply

  5. Bev Bailey

    Very much better late than never but have just seen this episode and am so glad to see that someone is now paying for the crime. Although for the life of me, I’m not sure why Mezquia isn’t serving life himself. He had a free life for plenty of years before he got caught…they should at least be added onto his sentence.

    Reply