An up and coming Seattle musician is murdered.
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:
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:
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:
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:
In fact, something did occur. But according to Hearon, whether it had anything to do with Mia’s death remains a mystery:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.