An up and coming Seattle musician is murdered.

Mia Zapata with medium length hair

Mia Zapata

Mug shot of Jesus Mezquia with glasses

Jesus Mezquia was arrested


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.”

A taxi cab picking up Mia Zapata at night

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.”


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.


  1. Investigative

    From what I understand about DNA saliva testing, the sample needs to be tested within 3 days or it is impossible to detect. This DNA evidence was tested nearly 10 years after the fact? That is impossible science. I think they connected the dots about this Jesus guy being a violent dirtbag, but I find it highly suspect that he was Mia’s killer.


  2. Jillguts

    Doing drugs and being a ” target” or “asking for it” is not putting oneself in the position to be assaulted and murdered. I am appalled that there is even commentary about what she was doing before being TORTURED AND KILLED. Please, think about where you point your fingers. It’s gross.


  3. Jenn

    But why did he do it? What was his motive here? She wasn’t sexually assaulted, was she? He just killed this poor girl to kill her for no reason whatsoever?


    • Terri O'Donnell

      She was raped, beaten, and strangled. I don’t know if he even would admit to this crime. But finally science connected him to this murder.


  4. Lea Nichols

    Did anyone ever ask Maria about her own whereabouts the hour of the murder …..she lived in a duplex that was close to water reservoir. Maria also was at our practice that night at the dungeon music studio rehearsal space ????? And Mia was coming back for rehearsal in the day 3:00pm for show rehearsal ,Mia ,Maria ,myself were harmonizing as the Bells . I waited 4 hours outside the door of the music space .Maria had misinformed me .She told me we had practice when I had called her early around 12:00 noon ??? She already had know the horrible True Crime Facts that Mia had been strangled to death .Why did she lie to me and act as if it was just another normal day and practice would be on schedule .I had to call the drummer “Noah” who informed me of true facts at hand ……this is first odd after the fact of murder of Mia that should have left a pit of creepies in your stomach if you knew Maria ….


  5. Johnny Diamond

    Thank God for advancements in DNA or else this creep might have gotten away with it. 36 years seems a bit light a sentence to me.


  6. Kim Hayes

    Now all of this is making way more sense to me. Thank you for the “real” story.


  7. Kelly

    Rest In Peace Mia. May your LIFE, ENERGY, SPIRIT, and MUSIC be what people remember…..and not your tragic passing at the hands of some scumbag who shall forever remain a nameless non-entity in my eyes.


  8. FDog

    I’m sure there is more to this story than what is shown. But does anyone find it weird that when she was found she was in a Christ like position… And her killers name was Jesus. It’s almost like she was trying to leave a clue. I maybe reading way more into it but I think she was trying to point out the killer.


  9. Mars

    A light was snuffed out… By a sexual predator… May mia rest easy knowing her killer will rot in jail…


  10. 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..


    • 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


      • anonymous

        If u know something you need to speak up


        • Lea Nichols Octabites lea

          I am saying this to you and the world on Mia Zapata’s murder facts and low morals that some of the members of Hell’s Bells will have to live with and know that the truth is out and on record . My phone call to cold case team is what became the break that the investigation needed to run her DNA through for a 2 time within a short period of time . Maria saw her get dragged of by the killer ….If the rock scene and world knew Mia was leaving a place that makes the rent and drug fix money by dealing “H” the reputation of this so-called friend of hers that lived on the reservoir. Mia was just about to make it in success her band was giving her an ultimatum to quit the s*** or quit the band because they were going to have to get a serious and clear head for the respect of the industry Mia was an alcoholic and known for her extreme intake of alcohol and she also was doing things that she would completely hide and I believe she went over to Maria’s to get some H . Maria lives on the reservoir of Capitol Hill area in a duplex at the time her neighbors saw Mia leave her house walk across her yard and saw the killer leave and walk across the yard . They were scared to say anything as they were worried being a witness in such a situation might have them killed because it was a drug house that Mia went to later after the reported screams not too long after Maria came back in and was crying to Ajax her boyfriend about what she had seen and that because she’s dealing she can’t tell the police anything and that is what the neighbors heard they told their son . Audrey was a manager for my boyfriend Ruben’s band me and I double dated Ruben and Tyler the people that lived in the house duplex next door to Maria had a son who was also a manager promoter for music who knew Audrey that is how I found out originally about somebody that had lived there that had a drug house that saw what happened and was crying later on I found out that Maria was the one who lived there it all came together over years and years of trying to figure out and make sense of a bunch of things that don’t make sense . What people read is just the little bits they don’t know behind the truth of everything that was going on Mia was not in love with Robert Jenkins Mia was in love with Tyler Ainsworth which hurt Robert so MIA was very secretive about our our boyfriends and our meetings with them I met her because she was dating Tyler. That’s why I say don’t believe everything you read because nobody knows what somebody’s life is like in private Mia’s boyfriend that nobody knew about that she had been seeing for a while Tyler from North American bison. And nobody ever reads about the break in the Green River case and the DNA that nobody knew about the psychic I am that psychic I’m just trying to tell you right now I have told the police every damn thing that I could find out or found out about under the facts that these people after me I was murdered in the bands we’re really cold and rude to me and treated me in a way that was very hurtful which confused me considering me up treated me with such special and encouraging kindness she loved my vocals and really pushed me into all of those people’s band it wasn’t really my style of music but it was a good start honestly I didn’t even know Mia was such a big thing to the world cuz I met her under a different level as I was very young and I hadn’t been in the music bar scene in Seattle I had just moved there she truly was my best friend we only were friends for about 5 months before she got murdered but we had so much fun together we even went to Portland Oregon I met poison idea and another couple bands that were her friends we used to go to every show and party together when she was off tours we would sneak off and just sing in a hollow echoey area of whatever basement or under a bridge we can find I truly miss her for years I wished it could have happened Maria . Why Mia she was such a deep beauty in soul . But I guess because of her pureness she had about her she was already sainted Maria has to learn lessons otherwise she’s going to have to come back and learn them all again I hope she betters herself and has the courage to tell the truth someday that is all I’m saying I don’t know who you are when you say the word anonymous is your name I don’t even know if this is going to be public record I really don’t care it’s all been trapped inside me for years I’ve spoke about it but I needed to get it out so thank you for letting me rant everything I have said was full truth and that is why I wanted to write this is because you said that in your statement I wanted you to know that I have told the police everything I can but since then I had met JAUN told me Jesus M. Was a major heroin dealer in Cuba that maybe why Maria knew him that is my point on explaining everything again I would like to file a request for everything that was transcribed about our phone call between I and the Cold Case detectives right before they ran her DNA we all got to remember it wasn’t actually me who knew this it was MIA who came and told me she is out there she is an angel or a spirit or whatever she is she’s able to communicate I know she watches me when I sing and play music and do other things I know she is my friend still be on the grave she will always be something so special so much more than just a punk rock musician in Seattle she was an incredibly deep human she could have been a queen and ruled the Land with Justice and good honest concerned she was so different than most people in the fact she really cared she really felt the things she wrote about and she didn’t have a ego or a big head about how much people admired her she was humble she was funny she was kind of gruff about her character and humor I’m tearing up right now as we speak I know she rests in peace but sometimes she stands by my side in that rest


          • L.A. Nichols

            ( Lea Nichols / Mia Zapata)Understudy Vocalist position in (Hells Smells) in a side project band so Mia asked Lea Nichols to fill her vocal harmony back up singing while on tour and focus need be on Mia’s stage and a studio star rising role required most of her energys . The night of murder was last time Mia would vocally preform ……it was only a side bands rehearsal for the next night show . She was soon leaving on tour as front woman vocalist for The Gits . Our Last song was a very harmonistic version of “Love Hurts” and i only knew of this song as material and melody to be in the bands music ( we played it with a different and prettier harmonizing vocal structure . People who listened would get chills and tear up in the eyes )I didn’t know it was even a famous song on charts “a cover tune” till years after Mia’s Murder ) I can say the original version doesn’t sound as good as HellsSmells & the Bells harmonized with “Mia” , Ajax’s ex girlfriend “Maria” and myself “Lea” did for a sound of Billy Holliday/ Nina Hagen and supportive tone of Maria’s vocal blend – harmonized cathedral like taste of this song that made it better that it was and it is a song now when i hear it on the radio playing any given day it is a ugly reminder of Mia Zapata’s last performance rehearsal .In my last time i sang with her as well of course is bitter song sweet memories R i p and Rise again in song !!!!!! Thank you cold case detectives that listened to my whole story of suspected cover up and facts that i had seen and witnessed as a band mate / best friend and understudy for Zapata . Thank You for interview with Allison Grandy & KIRO 7 News after DNA connected her murder to “Jesus Mezquia” a florida robbery convict born in Cuba and from Seattle , Washington .

        • Rock wife

          This is a lot of run on sentence to process but i agree


  11. 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 .


  12. 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.


  13. Concerned Citizen

    Rest in peace Mia.


  14. 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.


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