Mia Zapata was murdered on July 7, 1993 at the age of 27 years and 316 days old. She was the last musician to become a member of the 27 club before Kurt Cobain, and ironically they died in the same city. She was a member of a band called The Gits, and was a guitarist, singer and songwriter.
Zapata was born in Kentucky and was a prodigy of sorts, playing piano and guitar by the age of 9. She attended Antioch College in Ohio, and it was there that she formed the band with 3 other friends in 1986. In 1989 The Gits moved to Seattle to join the growing music scene there, and became popular. They issued several independent records and in 1993 put out their second full-length album. They were respected and highly regarded within the burgeoning grunge movement at the time of her death at 27.
Her murder took place in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, where a popular local watering hole was a gathering place for young residents. She reportedly left the tavern at 2 AM, briefly meeting a friend. She was apparently attacked nearby, but there were no witness, and her body was not found until 3:30 AM. Police reported that she had been beaten severely, raped, and strangled. While the cause of death was strangulation, the autopsy showed that she probably would have died from her internal injuries. The only evidence was a saliva sample collected by police and put into storage. No other leads ever came up, and the case quickly went cold.
Fortunately, her attacker was arrested in 2002 in Florida on a burglary charge and his DNA was entered into the system. A match was made with the sample from Zapata’s body, and Jesus Mezquia was charged with her murder. He was a Cuban immigrant with a history of violent crime, but until the technology for DNA fingerprinting became available, there was nothing tying him to the crime in 1993. Because of the extreme nature of the crime and the complete lack of evidence or leads, and the subsequent solving of the case, her story was featured on several television shows dealing with unsolved crimes.
Immediately after her death the music community in Seattle and several activists formed an educational and support organization called Home Alive. Again ironically, Nirvana with Kurt Cobain in one of their last public appearances joined other bands in a benefit for the fledgling group. Home Alive provided classes and other support services to women in the area until 2010 when it was closed due to financial woes and poor management.
Mia Zapata’s body is buried the Cave Hill cemetery in her hometown of Louisville Kentucky. The Gits released their last album in 1996, and several documentaries about the band have been produced.
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