In '93 Murder Of Punk Singer Mia Zapata
A man believed to be responsible for the
1993 killing of Mia Zapata, singer for early '90s Seattle punks
the Gits, may pay for his crime after nearly a decade.
Gits' Mia Zapata
Photo: Cosgrove Meurer
Jesus C. Mezquia, 48, was arrested late Friday in the Miami area
and charged with first-degree murder, according to a Miami-Dade
County police spokesperson.
DNA tests linked Mezquia, a resident of Marathon, Florida, to
the crime scene and prompted his arrest.
Zapata's body was found raped and beaten on July 7, 1993, near
the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The drawstrings of her
Gits sweatshirt were used to strangle her to death. Zapata was
27 years old.
Seattle police submitted evidence to crime labs for genetic testing
last year, but it yielded no matches. Only after information on
Mezquia, a convicted felon, was entered into the National DNA
Index System in December was a parallel drawn. Subsequent evidence
also placed Mezquia in the Seattle area at the time of the killing.
Mezquia is being held without bond in Miami-Dade County Jail,
where he is contesting his extradition to Seattle, according to
a spokesperson from the Florida state attorney's office. A court
hearing on the matter has been set for February 12, and a public
defender has been appointed to handle the extradition case. Since
Mezquia wants his case to be heard in Florida and not Seattle,
the case could take several months before going to trial.
"I was stunned," Gits drummer Steve Moriarty said of his reaction
to hearing the news of Mezquia's arrest. "I can't say that I felt
closure, because it's not going to bring Mia back, but I did listen
to the Gits albums really loud, and that felt good.
"On the home front, it will really help in that I won't have to
worry whether my neighbor or friends had anything to do with the
murder," he added. "We can stop looking over our shoulders and
wonder who it might be."
The Gits were part of the burgeoning grunge/punk scene in the
Pacific Northwest, but were closer in sound and spirit to riot
grrl bands such as Minneapolis' Babes in Toyland, Los Angeles'
L7, and Bikini Kill, from Olympia, Washington. Where the grunge
groups augmented their punk sound with a heavy metal core, the
riot grrls eschewed the rock bombast in favor of a fervent style
and political and feminist lyrics.
Zapata, Moriarty, guitarist Joe Spleen and bassist Matt Dresdner
formed the Gits in 1986 in Ohio before relocating to Seattle,
where they released their debut album, Frenching the Bully,
in 1992. Zapata died before the band could finish its follow-up,
Enter: The Conquering Chicken, which was posthumously released
in March 1994.
Zapata's death serves as a reminder of how far the feminist movement
still needs to progress, since harboring ideals and an outward
image of equality offered little protection against thuggish physical
violence. With her murdered friend in mind, 7 Year Bitch drummer
Valerie Agnew and visual artist Stacey Westcott immediately founded
Home Alive, a Seattle-based organization that offers affordable
self-defense classes and provides public education and awareness
of violence against women.
"Remnants of the pain and rage felt after the murder of Mia Zapata
have resurfaced with news of the arrest of her suspected attacker,"
read a statement from the organization. "For the individuals involved
with Home Alive, past and present, the news provides some answers
to devastating questions, and a renewed hope for justice. ...
For Home Alive ... it only reinforces our commitment to fighting
violence and hate in our community."
Musicians and artists from Seattle, especially, but also those
elsewhere, rallied immediately following Zapata's death. Acts
such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, the Posies and Bratmobile
staged benefit concerts that raised money to hire a private investigator
to find Zapata's killer. Collectively, they raised approximately
$70,000, which paid the PI for three years. Eventually the bills
became insurmountable. Now that Mezquia has been arrested, the
remaining small sum will be given to women's groups.
Among those also spearheading the activism, Joan Jett and Bikini
Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna wrote the track "Go Home," a song
about a late-night stalker, with Zapata in mind. The song was
recorded with the surviving members of the Gits, and a video "dedicated
to the memory of Mia Zapata" was shot in England by director Julian
Temple, with Jett playing a woman being stalked who turns the
tables on her predator.
The song prompted a benefit concert by Jett and the surviving
Gits, who called themselves Evil Stig ("Live Gits" backward).
Then-heads of Warner Bros. Records, Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker,
funded the recording of the concert and released the album in
"I was surprised and elated to learn that Mia Zapata's killer
has finally been caught," Jett said in a statement. "I'm thrilled
for the Gits, Mia's family and the entire Seattle music community,
which showed incredible solidarity in continuing efforts to find
the maniac who murdered her. I congratulate the police who found
a way to solve this crime after so many years. In recording her
songs, I became aware of Mia's brilliance as an artist and writer."
Partly due to Jett's persistence, Zapata's open murder case was
profiled on the television programs "America's Most Wanted" and
Home Alive released a benefit double album in 1996, Home Alive:
The Art of Self Defense, featuring "Go Home" and contributions
from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, the Fastbacks, Dead Kennedys
singer Jello Biafra, and X's Exene Cervenka, among its 44 tracks.
Flying Side Kick, Home Alive's second album, featuring
cuts from socially conscious West Coast punks such as the Need,
Black Halos and Zen Guerrillas, among others, was released in
[This story was updated on 01.13.03 at 06:01 p.m. ET.]
óJoe D'Angelo, with additional reporting by Gideon Yago