Man Arrested in Zapata Murder

Police pinch Florida man in 1993 killing of Gits singer

January 13, 2003 12:00 AM ET

Nearly a decade after the death of Gits singer Mia Zapata, a suspect has been arrested and charged with her murder. Jesus C. Mezquia, a forty-eight-year-old Florida man, was arrested near Miami on January 10th and is being held without bond on charges of first-degree murder.

Zapata's body was found after she had been raped and beaten and then strangled with the drawstring of her sweatshirt in the early morning hours of July 7th, 1993, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. She was twenty-seven. The singer's death seemed certain to remain a mystery, even as other Seattle bands raised tens of thousands of dollars to hire a private investigator to look into the case. But the effort produced no leads. But last year, Mezquia's DNA was entered into a national matching system that paired it with DNA found at the scene of the crime. Further investigation found that Mezquia, a convicted felon, was in the Seattle area at the time of the murder.

Zapata formed the Gits with guitarist Joe Spleen, bassist Matt Dresdner and drummer Steve Moriarty in Ohio in the mid-Eighties. The group relocated to Seattle and found kindred punk-minded spirits in a music scene that was starting to make ripples that extended beyond the region. Zapata was a particularly beloved figure, with a fiery and commanding presence on stage and a hype-free credibility from her peers off-stage. "Mia didn't use drugs," Morarity told Rolling Stone in 1993. "She was really well loved in the community, and she was respected. She didn't have enemies."

The band only released one album, 1992's Frenching the Bully, before Zapata's murder; they were at work on Enter: The Conquering Chicken at the time of her death. A trio of posthumous releases: Enter , Kings and Queens (a live album) and Seafish Louisville (another live record with odds and ends) would be issued.

Frustration at the police's inability to find Zapata's murderer led two of Zapata's friends -- 7 Year Bitch drummer Valerie Agnew and artist Stacey Westcott -- to think pro-actively. With other friends, they launched Home Alive, an anti-violence organization that promotes safer neighborhoods through education and community organization and also offers affordable self-defense classes (more information is available at homealive.org.

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